By Doug Gross, CNN
It's one of science fiction's greatest unfulfilled promises, right up there with teleportation and time travel.
This week, the Woburn, Massachussetts-based aerospace company announced it has begun feasibility studies on a car capable of vertical takeoffs and landings. The TF-X would be a four-seat, plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, according to the company.
“We are passionate about continuing to lead the creation of a flying car industry and are dedicating resources to lay the foundations for our vision of personal transportation,” Terrafugia CEO Carl Dietrich said in a media release. “Terrafugia is about increasing the level of safety, simplicity, and convenience of aviation. TF-X is an opportunity to provide the world with a new dimension of personal freedom!”
Yes, the long-awaited promise of "The Jetsons" may soon become reality.
Lest you think the company is just getting our hopes up for some cheap publicity, know this - they've already created a flying car of sorts.
The Transition is a street-legal vehicle that's designed to fly in and out of airports. It was successfully flown for the first time in 2009. The second-generation version of the Transition performed a driving-and-flying demo last year.
The new TF-X project comes as work on the Transition shifts "from research and development to certification, production, and customer support activities," the company said.
Terrafugia says it has about 100 orders for the Transition, which goes for $279,000.
The big difference between the Transition, which is scheduled to hit the market in 2015, and the new flying car is that the TF-X would be able to take off anywhere, like a helicopter, and not just at an airport.
Its automation systems would make taking off and landing a self-driving process, though the driver would be able to take over manual control at any time.
Terrafugia (Latin for "escape from Earth") says it has had "preliminary conversations" with the Federal Aviation Administration about the TF-X and that the agency has "demonstrated their willingness to consider innovative technologies and regulatory solutions that are in the public interest and enhance the level of safety of personal aviation."
In other words, we might actually get to ride in one someday.
What do you think? Will we see widespread use of flying cars in our lifetimes? Let us know in the comments.
Editor's Note: Greg Gage is a globe-trekking neuroscientist, engineer, teacher and entrepreneur. He's the co-founder of Backyard Brains, a Michigan-based company that wants to revolutionize how science is taught by putting neuroscience in the hands of young people. Watch Greg Gage's full 30-minute profile this Sunday at 2 P.M. ET. on CNN’s “The Next List.”
Why he matters: Gage has come up with an innovative way to inspire future generations in neuroscience. As the co-creator of Backyard Brains, Gage created the “SpikerBox,”a small DIY kit that helps young people understand the electrical impulses that control the nervous system. He brings cool hands-on experiments to schools so students can see and hear brain signals, or “spikes” from the living neurons of insects like cockroaches.
Gage is passionate about coming up with ways to change neuroscience education, because, he says “when it comes to the brain, we’re in the dark ages. One out five of us will be diagnosed with a brain disorder that still has no cures. By getting more people involved ... we can inspire those interested to become neuroscientists, and perhaps cure brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.”
Why he cares: The inspiration for Gage's work as an educator came from a realization that the advanced equipment he used as a PhD student could be made at home for a fraction of the price, in less than a day.
"Our equipment that we were using cost $40,000," he said. "We set off on a self-imposed engineering challenge to see if we could replicate our expensive lab equipment with something affordable by consumers.”
Gage ended up with the $100 "SpikerBox. It can be used with a smartphone, iPad or computer to monitor brain activity in real time. After a few minutes, amateurs can begin to understand the basic principles of how neurons encode information, and how remarkable the brain can be.
Who: Jim McKelvey is an engineer, entrepreneur, artist, community activist, environmentalist, and citizen of the world. Co-Founder of Square, Co-Founder of Third Degree Glass Factory, Co-Founder of Mira Publishing, Director of Emerald Automotive, General Partner of Cultivation Capital, he is a man who embraces challenge in many forms. Tune in Sunday, January 6 at 2 P.M. E.T. to watch The Next List's full 30-minute profile on McKelvey.
Why you might know him: McKelvey is most well known as the Co-Founder of Square, the mobile-payment system. In fact, it was his belief that small entrepreneurs endured abuse in the credit world that led Square to focus on payments.
Why he matters: He’s tackling some really tough problems with imagination, passion and grit. Most notably, McKelvey is working on creating a new economic model to help keep the struggling publishing industry alive. Why? Because “that’s meaningful work - people who write, they need every bit of resource they can get.” If that’s not enough, he’s launching an initiative to try to help reduce violence and provide a path to jobs for highly motivated but poorly educated kids in crime-ridden sections of St. Louis.
McKelvey’s philosophy: That any problem can be solved with enough resolve and the right people. Even if a problem was too big yesterday, everything is changing all the time and new tools are available every day to take on even the most complex problems.
By The Next List staff, CNN
(CNN) – Whether he’s peering into the mind of a mass murderer or spinning tales of the afterlife, bestselling author and neuroscientist David Eagleman is wrestling with some of the most profound questions of our existence. What is time? What is consciousness? How does the human brain construct reality?
“I’m very interested in the perceptual machinery by which we view the world,” Eagleman says, “and how we make decisions, our beliefs, our actions in the world.”
As head of the Laboratory for Perception and Action at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Eagleman and his students are pursuing some 50 different projects on the human brain. They study topics from time perception and brain plasticity to synesthesia, a condition characterized by a blending of senses. For research assistant and synesthete Hannah Bosley, synesthesia means that she associates letters and numbers with different colors.
“For example,” she says, “the word dog is D-O-G. It’s also yellow, clear and green to me.” FULL POST
Editor's note: Juan Sostheim is owner and founder of Rancho Margot, an eco-resort, educational facility and sustainable farm in Costa Rica. Sostheim is the subject of Sunday's episode of "The Next List," on CNN at 2 p.m. ET.
By Juan Sostheim, Special to CNN
(CNN) - Almost 40 years have gone by since I graduated from the University of Florida and started my professional career. I remember being relieved that the Vietnam War was nearly over and the threat of someone pushing "the button" and starting a nuclear war was becoming an unlikely scenario.
As terrible as these issues were, we always felt that we could somehow it behind us.
Today, we face a very different problem and it’s one which most people feel powerless to do something about on an individual level. I’m referring to climate change.
There have always been and will always be naysayers, but no one can stay on the sidelines and hope someone else will do the right thing. We all must become eco-literate. We all must participate.
In the scientific community, there is no doubt about where we are heading and what is causing it. There is some legitimate debate about how long the devastation due to climate change will take, how much damage we can expect or where, but the situation as a whole is clear; global warming is real and if we don’t change, life will forever be different. I’m an optimist and I know we can change. We must adapt and mitigate but most important of all we must let everyone know where we stand or it will continue to be business as usual.
When I built Rancho Margot, an eco-resort in Costa Rica, I had to make choices. I wanted to have the smallest possible environmental impact - but at the same time I needed to get tourists to come and support what we were doing. How was I going to sell my vision to people who don't believe in climate change? My mission became to get people to realize that small changes in lifestyle can have a big impact. There is no need to sacrifice.
So what is it that we as individuals can do? First and foremost, we must demand that the true cost of all products and services be visible for all to see. This is only possible if we demand that carbon footprints be measured under strict international norms. At Rancho Margot, we chose the PAS 2060 norms from the British Institute of Standards. We emit 115 tons of carbon dioxide per year and, through our mitigation efforts, sequester 1,375 tons. That means we had a minus-1,260-ton carbon footprint in 2011. As consumers, we need to demand this information.
Forget, for the moment, the global picture. This is about us. I want to know how much carbon we emit. I need to know. If this is not consumer protection, I don’t know what is. In the UK, all public companies are now required to report and certify their carbon footprint. It’s a start. It is a slow process and we have little time. In the absence of this consumer protection we need to make common sense choices. We can buy locally produced fruits and vegetables. We can buy quality that lasts and things that can be locally repaired. We need to stop supporting our own destruction. There is a whole sustainable future out there and it’s up to us.
The opinions expressed in this post are solely those of Juan Sostheim.
By John D. Sutter, CNN
(CNN) - Forget Rick Moranis glasses, starchy button-ups and pocket protectors.
Meet the new generation at NASA: Bobak Ferdowsi, better known as "Mohawk Guy." Ferdowsi was spotted wearing a red-and-black mohawk with yellow stars dyed on the sides of his head during the U.S. space agency's overnight landing of its Mars rover, "Curiosity."
The Internet quickly turned him into a meme, superimposing text like "The Mohawk That Landed a Rover on Mars" and "Becomes an Internet sensation ... Too busy landing a robot on Mars to notice" over his images.
In case you'd forgotten, here's what the old guard at NASA looked like: FULL POST
By Olivia Smith, Special to CNN
New York (CNN) - Imagine wallpaper that does work for you and for your electronics. Wallpaper that doesn’t only protect your walls, but also protects your health, equipment and data.
Researchers at France’s Institut Polytechnique de Grenoble have worked with the Centre Technique du Papier to develop Wi-Fi-blocking wallpaper. The product, also known as metapaper, claims to selectively filter, reduce or reflect electromagnetic waves.
Metapaper not only protects against intruders stealing Wi-Fi from buildings, but also ensures that signals inside a building are more secure and stronger, the group says. Benefits include data security for companies or people that need dependable Wi-Fi. The wallpaper can also be used to create quieter spaces for places like hospitals and movie theaters. FULL POST
By John D. Sutter, CNN
(CNN) - The U.S. legal drinking age is 21. Should Facebook have the same requirement?
Plenty of people light-heartedly say the 900-million-person social network is "addictive," since so many of us spend hours a day checking up on what our Facebook friends are doing.
But following a Monday story about whether Facebook should allow children younger than 13 to join the site - since stats show they're on Facebook anyway and Facebook reportedly is considering implementing parental controls that could allow it to lower the minimum age - some of CNN's commenters fired back, saying that the minimum age should not be lowered.
In fact, they said, it should be raised.
"No. Flying Green Monkeys. No," commenter AnneV99 wrote in response to our question about whether 11-year-olds should be allowed to join Facebook. "In fact, raise the age limit to 21. Why? Because many parents and teachers are already teaching their children to be irresponsible. But what is Facebook - It is all about ME-ME-ME. Facebook = Sickness (but not as bad as that evil-Twitter thing)." FULL POST
By Laura Ly, Special to CNN
New York (CNN) - On any given day, the vending machine at Ample Hills Creamery in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, may offer anything from books to original artwork to toys. If you see something you want, however, no need to take out your wallet. The ‘Swap-O-Matic’ vending machine allows you to swap and trade items, rather than buy them.
“The Swap-O-Matic recognizes that there is a thrill in getting things. The vending machine satisfies our desires for instant gratification, but it co-ops it and re-appropriates it to something that is a more sustainable method of acquisition, which is through swapping and trading,” said Lina Fenequito, the creator and primary designer of the ‘Swap-O-Matic.’
Fenequito wanted to call attention to issues of overconsumption and needless waste and aimed to find a creative way to encourage trading and reusing. For her senior thesis project at Parsons School of Design, she built an earlier, low-tech model. In August 2011, with the help of visual designer Ray Mancini and electrical engineer Rick Cassidy, Fenequito built upon her thesis project and created a machine with touchscreen capability and digital locks. FULL POST