The Mystery of the Flying Car?

During the 1970s, Williams International built a one-man vertical take-off and landing machine known as “The Flying Pulpit.” This strange flying car stood four feet high and was capable of flying in any direction for as long as 45 minutes. It could speed up, hover in the air, and rotate as well as reach a top speed of 60 mph.

The Flying Pulpit - A Flying Car

The Flying Pulpit
Description: Side view of Williams X-Jet Flying Car on display at the Seattle Museum of Flight
Attribution: Gallimaufry (2006)
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Flying Pulpit – The Mystery of the Flying Car?

The Flying Pulpit bore more than a passing resemblance to the Magnetic Air Car, which was featured in the Dick Tracy comic strip during the 1960s. That should come as no surprise. Dick Tracy’s creator, Chester Gould, was somewhat of a futurist and dotted his famous strip with numerous inventions which have since come to pass, including the 2-way wrist radio and the portable surveillance camera.

So, what happened to these strange flying cars? Well, as best as I can determine, they were constructed for military use. However, the U.S. Army found them wanting in the 1980s. Apparently, the flying cars were consigned to the dustbins of history.

While The Flying Pulpit might’ve made for a poor weapon in the face of other aircraft, I’m a little surprised it was never released for civilian use. Who wouldn’t want a personal flying car? Check out this video to see The Flying Pulpit in action.

The Most Significant Breakthrough in Medical History?

A group of scientists at the Space Biosciences Division at NASA recently made an astounding discovery using carbon nanotubes. What is it? And could it be “the most significant breakthrough in medical history?”

Single-Walled Carbon Nanotube

Single-Walled Carbon Nanotube
Attribution: Arnero
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Carbon Nanotubes & the NASA Biocapsule: The Most Significant Breakthrough in Medical History?

Imagine a bundle of carbon nanotubes implanted under your skin. Now, imagine this bundle could be used to self-regulate insulin levels for diabetes patients, deliver high levels of chemotherapy to very specific areas of the body, or provide epinephrine doses when needed for those with severe allergies.

Well, here’s the kicker…the bundle exists and it’s poised to change the way doctors treat all sorts of ailments. Here’s more on these miraculous carbon nanotubes from Gizmodo:

There are no hospitals in space. The closest E.R. is back on Earth, and astronauts can’t exactly jump in a cab to get there. So what happens if the sun burps out a massive blast of radiation while an astronaut is space-amblin’ by?

The NASA Biocapsule—made of carbon nanotubes—will be able to “diagnose” and instantly treat an astronaut without him or her even knowing there’s something amiss. It would be like having your own personal Dr. McCoy—implanted under your skin. It represents one of the most significant breakthroughs in the history of medicine, and yes, it’ll work on Earth, too…

(See The Miraculous NASA Breakthrough That Could Save Millions of Lives for more on carbon nanotubes and the the NASA Biocapsule)

DARPA’s Invisibility Cloak?

Yes, it’s true. Thanks to DARPA funding, a group of scientists have done the impossible. They’ve invented an invisibility cloak.

Alberich disappears with the help of an Invisibility Cloak

Alberich puts on the Tarnhelm invisibility cloak and vanishes, leaving his brother Mime behind
Source: The Rhinegold and the Valkyrie by Richard Wagner (1910) via Wikimedia Commons

A Working Invisibility Cloak?

We first reported on invisibility cloak technology back in October 2011. This technology is a little different. But don’t get too excited…this invisibility cloak only works for 50 picoseconds…in other words, 40 trillionths of a second. That’s not enough time to blink let alone sneak through the hallways of Hogwarts. While some improvement is possible, it would apparently take a gigantic machine (18,600 miles long!) to make this invisibility cloak last for a complete second.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Still, it’s not all for naught. The invisibility cloak, developed with DARPA funding, could help improve fibre-optic communications security. Then again, it could also be used to hide computer viruses as they’re passed into high-speed data streams. Here’s more on this new invisibility cloak from Fox News:

We see events happening as light from them reaches our eyes. Usually it’s a continuous flow of light. In the new research, however, scientists were able to interrupt that flow for just an instant.

Other newly created invisibility cloaks fashioned by scientists move the light beams away in the traditional three dimensions. The Cornell team alters not where the light flows but how fast it moves, changing in the dimension of time, not space.

They tinkered with the speed of beams of light in a way that would make it appear to surveillance cameras or laser security beams that an event, such as an art heist, isn’t happening…

(Read the rest on this new invisibility cloak at Fox News)

The Strange Science of Superconductors?

On April 8, 1911, Dutch physicist Heike Kamerlingh Onnes was analyzing the impact of low temperatures on solid metals. While examining pure mercury, he used liquid helium to lower the temperature to 4.2 kelvin. Suddenly, the mercury wire changed into a superconductor…and forever altered the face of science.

Portrait of Heike Kamerlingh Onnes (1909)
Painted by Menso Kamerlingh Onnes
Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Chaos Book Club

Today is Day 20 of the Chaos book club. Chaos is an adventure thriller along the lines of Indiana Jones or books written by Clive Cussler, James Rollins, Douglas Preston, or Steve Berry. Thanks to those of you who’ve bought the novel already. If you haven’t already done so, please consider picking up a copy at one of the following locations:

Amazon Paperback * Kindle E-Book * Nook E-Book * Smashwords E-Book * iBooks E-Book * Kobo E-Book * Diesel E-Book * Sony E-Book

The Discovery of Superconductors

So what happened to Onnes’ mercury wire? Well, at 4.2 kelvin, its electrical resistance vanished.

“Mercury has passed into a new state, which on account of its extraordinary electrical properties may be called the superconductive state.” ~ Heike Kamerlingh Onnes

And thus, the strange science of superconductors was born. A superconductor is a substance that shows zero electrical resistance at very low temperatures. This occurs because the low temperature causes atoms to cease random vibrations. Thus, electrons can flow freely from one atom to another with no resistance. This allows an electrical current to flow continuously through the superconductor with no power source.

Superconductors and the Meissner Effect

In 1933, Walter Meissner and Robert Ochsenfeld discovered that superconductors also exhibit something that has come to be known as the Meissner Effect. When the right substance is cryogenically cooled, it expels its internal magnetic field. This allows it to perfectly repel a magnetic field aimed in its direction. This turns the superconductor into “a mirror image of the magnet.” In practice, the Meissner Effect allows a superconductor to float endlessly above a powerful magnet.

Superconductors & Chaos

Suffice it to say that superconductors remain a source of great interest and mystery for physicists. They are expected to provide future opportunities in electric power transmission, transformers, power storage, and even magnetic levitation devices.

(SPOILER ALERT)

Superconductors are a fascinating field of research. As those of you who’ve read the novel know by now, they also inspired me in my creation of die Glocke, or the Nazi Bell. Hmmm…I wasn’t going to give this away but…well…okay. If you haven’t read Chaos yet, don’t read this next part! I don’t want to spoil it for you.

I knew Beverly was behind me, but I could no longer feel her presence. The blanket dominated my attention. While unremarkable on its own, it carried heavy symbolism for me.

It was the last remaining barrier between the Bell and me.

I walked over to it. As I grasped its coarse edge, I wondered what secrets I’d find on the other side. Would the Bell look the same as I’d imagined it? Could we destroy it?

I pulled the blanket out of the way. My beam lifted, casting into the space.

I froze.

The flashlight fell from my fingertips. It bounced on the floor and rolled. I felt a sudden reverence as if I stood before the Almighty Himself.

“Oh my God,” Beverly whispered. “Is it…?”

“It’s not touching the ground,” I replied dumbly. “The damn thing’s floating. It’s floating in mid-air.” ~ David Meyer, Chaos

You can probably guess what keeps the mysterious Bell floating in mid-air. But Cy Reed’s journey is just beginning. He has to figure out a way to destroy the Bell. The fate of the world depends on it. You can read more about his thrilling adventure by getting a copy of Chaos at one of the links above.

That’s it for today. Tomorrow is the last day of the Chaos book club. For those of you who’ve stuck with me for this long, I’ve got a little treat for you. We’re going to take a look down the road at the coming sequel to Chaos. Stop by tomorrow to check it out…you won’t regret it!

 

Chaos Book Club

An iPhone…in 1922?

In 1921, the cinemagazine Eve and Everybody’s Film Review was launched. In Issue 41, a strange invention was showcased, one that wouldn’t come to practical fruition for almost a century. Did someone nearly invent the first iPhone…in 1922?

Alexander Graham Bell using an early telephone to call Chicago from New York in 1892, 30 years before the "first iPhone" of 1922

Alexander Graham Bell using an early telephone to call Chicago from New York in 1892, 30 years before the “first iPhone” of 1922
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Chaos!

So, as many of you know, I released my first novel, Chaos, on Monday. It’s an adventure thriller along the lines of Indiana Jones or books written by Clive Cussler, James Rollins, Douglas Preston, or Steve Berry. If you haven’t already done so, please consider picking up a copy of Chaos at one of the following locations:

Amazon Paperback * Kindle E-Book * Nook E-Book * Smashwords E-Book * iBooks E-Book * Kobo E-Book * Diesel E-Book * Sony E-Book

The First iPhone…in 1922?

Now, Eve and Everybody’s Film Review was designed to show women “doing interesting and novel jobs and hobbies, fashion displays and novelty items ranging from excerpts of musicals and plays to slow-motion camera studies of nature.” And indeed, the film in question definitely fits into that category.

“Bless us, they’re never still – always up to something new. And Eve’s latest invasion is in the wireless world – ” ~ Eve and Everybody’s Film Review #41

The ironically-silent film clip turned up in an old film archive owned by British Pathe. As you can see, it shows two women walking on a sidewalk, presumably in the United States which dominated the telephone industry at that time. They stop next to a fire hydrant and prepare to use “Eve’s Portable Wireless Phone.” Using a wire, they connect the phone to the fire hydrant. Apparently, “this provides the radio phone with a ground connection as was necessary in the old analogue radios.”

Afterward, they raise an umbrella which is also connected to the “first iPhone,” presumably to act as an aerial device. They proceed to speak to an operator who plays a record for them. They stand outside (in the snow mind you) and enjoy their proto-iPhone.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

As far as I know, no one has determined the first iPhone’s inventor yet or whether it reached any stage of production. Still, it’s pretty amazing that someone actually attempted to create a portable phone and music player almost 90 years ago. Back then, some might’ve argued that such a device lacked convenience and ease of use. After all, how many women would’ve wanted to carry around a large wooden box full of wires and hang out by a fire hydrant? Fortunately, Eve’s Fashion Review had an answer for those critics.

”It’s Eve’s portable wireless phone – and won’t hubby have a time when he has to carry one!”

A Cloak…of Invisibility?

Earlier this month, BAE Systems announced a revolutionary technology that could change the face of war…forever. Did the company’s scientists really figure out the secret to making an invisibility cloak?

Alberich disappears with the help of an Invisibility Cloak

Alberich puts on the Tarnhelm invisibility cloak and vanishes, leaving his brother Mime behind
Source: The Rhinegold and the Valkyrie by Richard Wagner (1910) via Wikimedia Commons

A Real-Life Invisibility Cloak?

On September 5, BAE issued a remarkable press release entitled, BAE Systems Conjures up Invisibility Cloak. It declared that it had developed an “invisibility cloak” which would allow a vehicle to “blend into its surroundings.” In essence, the cloak is a series of sheets placed on the vehicle which have the ability to change temperature at a rapid clip. When used properly, they can literally make a tank or other vehicle invisible in the infra-red spectrum.

“Known as ‘Adaptiv’, the patented technology is based on sheets of hexagonal ‘pixels’ that can change temperature very rapidly. On-board cameras pick up the background scenery and display that infra-red image on the vehicle, allowing even a moving tank to match its surroundings. Alternatively, it can mimic another vehicle or display identification tags, reducing the risk of fratricide.”

Pretty amazing. At this time, the technology is only useful in the infra-red spectrum. However, this will undoubtedly change over the coming years.

“BAE Systems engineers have combined the pixels with other technologies, which provide camouflage in other parts of the electro-magnetic spectrum at the same time to provide all-round stealth, which will be developed further over the next few years.”

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Here’s a video of the invisibility cloak in action. If you’re pressed for time, start at 0:49 and wait 3 seconds.

Now you see it. Now you don’t.

The Mystery of Thomas Edison’s Ring

Thomas Edison is rightly known as one of the most brilliant inventors in history. After his death, he left behind a strange metal ring which was later found in his laboratory. Its purpose remained unknown…until now.

Thomas Edison with Phonograph
Photographed by L.C. Handy (1877)
Source: Wikimedia Commons via The Library of Congress

Thomas Edison’s Talking Doll?

Thomas Edison is the third-most prolific, patented inventor in American history, behind Kia Silverbrook and Shunpei Yamazaki. He is credited with inventing the phonograph, the motion-picture camera, and the light bulb.

In 1890, after many years of experimentation, development, and business warfare, Thomas Edison released a new invention into the marketplace.  It was called the Edison Talking Doll. The dolls stood about two feet high and weighed four pounds apiece. Inside their bodies, Edison installed tiny phonographs with pre-recorded cylinders. Children were supposed to turn a crank at a steady speed in order to hear a six-second nursery rhyme.

The voices of the little monsters were exceedingly unpleasant to hear – Thomas Edison

The dolls debuted at the Lenox Lyceum in New York City. One month later, production ceased due to poor demand and complaints about the easily-damaged phonograph system. Very few of these dolls exist today.

Thomas Edison’s Mysterious Ring?

That brings us back to the ring. It was discovered in 1967. Observers noticed that it contained grooves, similar to those used by a phonograph. Unfortunately, the ring was bent and damaged, making it impossible for anyone to play the recording.

That all changed recently when scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory used image analysis to digitize the grooves. It turns out that the ring holds an old recording of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” The recording, made in the fall of 1888, was originally developed for an Edison Talking Doll. However, wax records subsequently replaced metal ones and thus, the ring was never used for its intended purpose. You can listen to the audio here: Edison Talking Doll Audio (1888)

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

According to historian Patrick Feaster, the ring represents “the oldest American-made recording of a woman’s voice that we can listen to today.” The speaker is unknown. But until someone proves otherwise, she has earned her place in the history books as the world’s first professional recording artist.