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Report Hints Porsche Might Have a Passenger Drone in the Works

Posted: 04 Mar 2018 09:12 AM PST

There are companies working on flying cars, and there are those developing flying cars that are autonomous. The latter are referred to as drones, though they’re capable of ferrying passengers. Many see flying passenger drones as the future of urban mobility, and rumor has it that Porsche has one in the works.

While the German automaker hasn’t confirmed or offered much by way of details, a German automotive industry news site Automobilwoche claims the company is close to releasing the first design sketches. Porsche has yet to comment on the report, but the company’s sales director, Detlev von Platen, supposedly hinted at the possibility.

“It would take three and a half minutes to fly the plane,” von Platen told Automobilwoche, referring to how long it would take him to fly a passenger drone from Porsche’s Zuffenhausen manufacturing plant to Stuttgart Airport. A typical drive would take him “at least half an hour.”

Like most other passenger drone concepts, Porsche’s would supposedly let passengers have some control over the vehicle — but most of the flying would be automated. In practical terms, that means drivers-turned-pilots wouldn’t need to have a pilot’s license.

Beyond that, we don’t know too much about the potential project — though, given similar projects currently in development, we can imagine the possibilities. Several other companies around the globe have autonomous aerial vehicle (AAV) concepts and flying taxi services in the works, including the EHang 184 from a Chinese company of the same name. The company recently showed footages of the AAV in action. There’s also a Detroit-based startup, AirSpaceX, which claims it will have a working autonomous flying taxi by 2026.

In general, many veteran carmakers are staking a claim in the AAV business: Daimler, the parent company for Mercedez-Benz, teamed up with vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) maker Volocopter. The latter’s work includes those flying taxis recently tested in Dubai. Volvo parent company Geely, meanwhile, bought flying car company Terrafugia last November 2017.

If the pressure of the other company’s projects has put the heat on Porsche to get in the game, we may see those designs for a passenger drone soon. In the meantime, Volkswagen, Porsche’s parent company, has already been working with Airbus on a Pop.Up car-drone hybrid, through its design and engineering arm, Italdesign.

The post Report Hints Porsche Might Have a Passenger Drone in the Works appeared first on Futurism.

Blockchain Could Help Restaurants Make Sure the Seafood You Order Is Actually What Lands on Your Plate

Posted: 04 Mar 2018 05:46 AM PST

Fish Fraud

Fraud runs rampant in the seafood industry, but blockchain (the technology supporting the growing cryptocurrency market) could help ensure the fish you order in a restaurant is the fish that finds its way onto your plate.

In 2016, Oceana, an ocean conservation advocacy group, compiled a report drawing from 200 published studies on seafood fraud. Based on their findings, a whopping 20 percent of seafood is not labeled correctly. The problem extends to all corners of the globe and at all levels of the supply chain, from the people catching the fish to those distributing and selling it.

The seafood mislabeling infractions detailed in the report ranged from the relatively minor (a restaurant advertising wild salmon but serving a cheaper farmed salmon) to the downright disturbing: sushi chefs purposely mislabeling endangered whale meat as fatty tuna in order to smuggle it into the U.S.

The consequences of mislabeling pop up in global health, the economy, and conservation efforts. According to the Oceana report, the best way to combat them is by increasing traceability. The report asserts that a more detailed and transparent record of information about the fish as it moves along the supply chain could help decrease instances of mislabeling.

Blockchain could provide this record.

Tracking Seafood

Though most commonly associated with money, blockchain’s utility isn’t limited to the world of finance. At its core, the technology is simply a secure, transparent way to record transactions. A number of companies are looking for ways to apply it to the seafood supply chain.

In April 2017, Intel released a demonstration case study showing how Hyperledger Sawtooth, a platform for creating and managing blockchains, could facilitate seafood supply chain traceability. That study used sensors to track and record information about a fish’s location, temperature, and other characteristics as it moved from boat to restaurant.

In January 2018, the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) announced their appropriately named Blockchain Supply Chain Traceability Project. Through that project, the WWF and their partners are cracking down on illegal tuna fishing by recording every step along the supply chain on a blockchain.

“Through blockchain technology, soon a simple scan of tuna packaging using a smartphone app will tell the story of a tuna fish — where and when the fish was caught, by which vessel and fishing method,” said WWF-New Zealand CEO Livia Esterhazy in a press release. “Consumers will have certainty that they're buying legally-caught, sustainable tuna with no slave labor or oppressive conditions involved.”

Of course, getting everyone along the supply chain to agree to a new recording system might not be easy, and that’s why a blockchain-based seafood solution like Fishcoin could be useful. The idea behind that project is to reward people all along the supply chain for providing valuable data directly to those at the end of it.

For example, fishers in developing nations might send a restaurant or grocery store information on the seafood they caught. This triggers a smart contract that transfers a certain number of Fishcoins into those fisher’s crypto wallets. The fishers can then exchange those Fishcoins for something of value to them, such as prepaid cell phone minutes.

Most of these projects are still in the development stages, but should they take off, it could have far-reaching implications for global health, the economy, and, of course, your dinner plate.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

The post Blockchain Could Help Restaurants Make Sure the Seafood You Order Is Actually What Lands on Your Plate appeared first on Futurism.

Here’s How You Could Survive Being Sucked Into a Black Hole

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 12:57 PM PST

How to Survive a Black Hole

OK, so maybe you aren’t going to get sucked into a black hole tomorrow. Or ever. Maybe even trying to imagine being in such a situation feels like writing yourself into a Doctor Who episode. But, for mathematicians, physicists, and other scientists attempting to understand cosmic strangeness in practical terms, these thought experiments are actually very useful. And they may be more practical in and of themselves than we’d realized.

At least, that’s what a team of researchers led by Peter Hintz at the University of California, Berkeley found through their study of black holes, recently published in the journal Physical Review Letters

Before launching into their findings, let’s recall that, theoretically, some black holes have an electromagnetic charge and some don’t. All black holes have what’s called an event horizon. Should you find yourself in a black hole, the event horizon would be the “point of no return” if you passed through it.

In the case that you were sucked into a black hole that had an electromagnetic charge, once you made it into the event horizon, you’d actually find yourself confronted by something else entirely: the Cauchy horizon. Beyond that cosmic boundary is… well, we don’t know. Which is why Hintz and his team were so curious about it.

"Given that we don't know what happens past the Cauchy horizon, it could be crazy things as long as they're mathematically possible," Hintz told New Scientist.

The Great Unknown

More interesting than what might exist beyond the Cauchy horizon is what doesn’t — namely, the governing principles of thought and logic that allow us to make sense of the world and predict with a fair degree of certainty how scenarios will play out.

What we do know for certain is that if you spend too long near the Cauchy horizon — deliberating the senselessness of deep space, perhaps — gravity will stretch you to death. However, during that period space-time will also be stretching the bounds of what makes sense; what the philosophers called determinism.

Here on Earth, if we want to better understand our current circumstances, or attempt to make guesses about the future, we can look to the past. But at the edge of the Cauchy horizon, on the brink of singularity, the laws of physics don’t apply. So, not only do we have no idea might be lurking within, we also can’t make any predictions.

"[The singularity] could emit elephants, planets, radiation – basically anything," Hintz said to New Scientist, which means that even if gravity doesn’t tear you limb from limb, you could be taken out by an elephant hurtling toward you at warp speed.

9 Physics Questions Baffling Scientists [INFOGRAPHIC]
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But here’s the thing: as Hintz’s team points out, the universe is rapidly expanding. Because of this, it stands to reason that all this energy might be more evenly distributed than we think. And if that’s the case, then if we ramped up the engine our of spaceship to pass through the Cauchy horizon fast enough, we might actually make it to the other side.

The calculations in Hintz’s study only work for black holes with an electric charge (which are, as far as we know, wholly theoretical). However, as the team points out in their paper, the behavior and makeup of these non-existent electrically-charged black holes could be seen in certain black holes that do exist: rotating ones.

Not that you’re likely to get sucked into any black hole — theoretical or otherwise — but it’s nice to know you might survive the trip. Of course, what life would be like in the strange and unpredictable world that awaits you on the far side of the Cauchy horizon remains unknowable.

Though, as Hintz’s study concludes, it’s possible that the cosmic landscape would be full of wormholes. So, if you didn’t like your new digs, you could just hop into the next universe over. Maybe one with fewer elephants.

The post Here’s How You Could Survive Being Sucked Into a Black Hole appeared first on Futurism.

A Massachusetts Company Claims to Be Close to a Solid-State Battery

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 11:34 AM PST

New Investments

According to Axios, technology giants like Samsung and Dyson have collectively invested $65 million in Massachusetts-based Ionic Materials. This enormous vote of confidence is a bit shocking, as most people probably haven’t even heard of the small company before. But if Ionic Materials delivers on its recent claims, the investment will certainly pay off. It claims to be close to creating a safe, working solid-state battery.

The company, established in 1986, seems to be making unique progress in solid-state technology. It has created a brand new material — a liquid crystal polymer — that could solve many of the pressing issues that prevent this type of battery from entering the market.

So far, Ionic Materials’ researchers have claimed three major breakthroughs. First, they assert that lithium ions move as fast or even faster through their polymer than they would through a conventional liquid electrolyte system. This seems counter-intuitive since the polymer is a solid, but if it is true, this would clear a huge hurtle to creating working solid-state batteries.

Second, they say that their material works at an impressive five volts and can be made simply and cheaply. Third, they’ve stated that, while most materials in solid-state research operate at about 60° C (140° F), their material works under much cooler conditions — room temperature.

Solid State

Ionic Materials seems to have a leg up on competitors with its unique, cheap, and simple-to-produce material. But, if they are correct in their assertions, why would a solid-state battery be so groundbreaking?

They are safer than current batteries, for one thing. Lithium-ion batteries are flammable and prone to overheating and combustion. Solid-state batteries, on the other hand, preserve lithium in a non-flammable state.

Electric cars could be much more efficient with solid-state batteries. Image Credit: Joenomias / Pixabay
Electric cars could be much more efficient with solid-state batteries. Image Credit: Joenomias / Pixabay

Solid-state batteries are also able to be smaller, cheaper to make, and higher capacity than liquid-based batteries. They could potentially charge faster, last longer, and have better overall performance. They could even make better smartphones and electric cars possible.

The main challenge to realizing solid-state batteries has been discovering a material with all of the right properties. If Ionic Materials is right and their polymer is the one to beat, we could be closer to solid-state batteries than ever before. Still, the company has not released much data on their technology, so many experts remain skeptical of how close the researchers actually are to a working product, according to Axios.

The post A Massachusetts Company Claims to Be Close to a Solid-State Battery appeared first on Futurism.