Author Archives: Marshall Smith

About Marshall Smith

Technology, engineering, and design enthusiast.
  1. Can You Tell the Difference Between a Fake Diamond and a Real One?

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    Technologies for developing artificial diamonds are continuously improving, so much so, the industry is at a bit of a crossroads.

    Nearly as much money that is being poured into real diamonds is being invested in the fake diamond industry and for good reason, as it is extremely difficult to tell the difference between the two.

    The science team from The Verge recently spoke to experts Wuyi Wang and Tom Moses at the Gemological Institute of America, in addition to visiting the showroom at Brilliant Earth, where both real and artificial diamonds are made with one overriding question.

    With billions of dollars flowing into both industries, how will consumers adapt as we move into the future?

  2. Watch Satellite Footage of China’s OneSpace Startup Launching a Rocket from the Gobi Desert

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    Sina weibo/framegrab

    A satellite orbiting 332 miles above Earth recently captured some neat footage of China’s OneSpace startup launching a rocket from the Gobi Desert.

    As cool as the video is, OneSpace was merely testing the solid-fueled booster of its OS-X1 rocket, reaching a suborbital altitude of 21.7 miles after taking off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.

    OneSpace CEO Shu Chang aims for the company to be “one of the biggest small-satellite launchers in the world,” aiming for 10 launches in 2019.

    The company hopes to launch its first orbital flight later this year.

  3. Apple Hints 3D Touch for iPhones Might Be on the Way Out

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    In 2015, Apple introduced 3D Touch for the iPhone and at the time the company believed the technology would play a massive role in its success moving forward, especially as it pertains to smartphone innovation.

    Now, some three years later, the company is reportedly close to ditching the pressure-sensitive screen tech altogether due to the fact that its development is essentially a massive waste of resources at this point.

    Immediately after the initial launch of 3D Touch, Apple’s Marketing Chief told Bloomberg the following:

    “Engineering-wise, the hardware to build a display that does what [3D Touch] does is unbelievably hard,” says [Phil Schiller, Apple’s marketing chief]. “And we’re going to waste a whole year of engineering — really, two — at a tremendous amount of cost and investment in manufacturing if it doesn’t do something that [people] are going to use. If it’s just a demo feature and a month later nobody is really using it, this is a huge waste of engineering talent.”

    To be honest, I’m not sure I’ve ever personally used 3D Touch beyond Instagram. Furthermore, I’m not sure many iPhone users are even aware the feature is available.

    It would appear Apple agrees with this sentiment, but we’ll have to wait to confirm the news with the release of the company’s next generation of iPhones.

  4. 3D Printed Electronic Tattoos Pave The Way For Military Applications

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    McAlpine group, University of Minnesota

    The idea for 3D printing low-cost electronic tattoos on human skin isn’t a new one, however its potential for use in a number of military applications is a relatively cutting-edge proposal.

    A team of scientists from the University of Minnesota utilized a custom 3D printer to print electronics on human hands, which researchers believe could be utilized by soldiers as temporary electronic sensors capable of snuffing out chemical or biological agents.

    “I’m fascinated by the idea of printing electronics or cells directly on the skin,” said Michael McAlpine, the study’s lead author and the University of Minnesota Benjamin Mayhugh Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering. “It is such a simple idea and has unlimited potential for important applications in the future.”

    Circuit designs are able to be 3D printed onto skin thanks to an ink made from silver flakes which can cure at room temperature, keeping the transfer process safe and the skin safe from burning. After use, the 3D printed electronic tattoo cam simply be washed or peeled off.

    “We are excited about the potential of this new 3D-printing technology using a portable, lightweight printer costing less than $400,” said McAlpine. “We imagine that a soldier could pull this printer out of a backpack and print a chemical sensor or other electronics they need, directly on the skin.”

  5. Airbus’ Zephyr S HAPS Sets Record By Flying For 26 Straight Days

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    Airbus’ solar-powered aircraft, the Zephyr S HAPS (High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite), recently made its maiden flight and incredibly set a world record in the process.

    The aircraft flew for 25 days, 23 hours, and 57 minutes after leaving Arizona on July 11, good for “the longest duration flight ever made.”

    The Zephyr, which runs on solar power and weighs 75 kilograms, is utilized for “local satellite-like services”, and operates in the stratosphere at an average altitude of 70,000 feet with a wingspan of 25 meters.

    “This very successful maiden flight represents a new significant milestone in the Zephyr program, adding a new stratospheric flight endurance record which we hope will be formalized very shortly,” Jana Rosenmann, head of unmanned aerial systems at Airbus, said in a statement.

    “We will in the coming days check all engineering data and outputs and start the preparation of additional flights planned for the second half of this year from our new operating site at the Wyndham airfield in Western Australia,” Rosenmann added.

  6. Kroger Collaborates With Autonomous Vehicle Startup Nuro For Robot Grocery Deliveries

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    It seems like everyone is getting in on the autonomous vehicle craze, with grocery giant Kroger being the latest to make a splash.

    In a partnership with autonomous vehicle startup, Nuro, Kroger is testing out same-day and next-day grocery delivery order in Arizona utilizing driverless cars.

    The delivery fee is $5.95 per order with no minimum order which seems like it could pose problems down the road but that’s a conversation for another day.

    Currently, groceries are being delivered via Nuro’s fleet of self-driving Toyota Prius and Nissan Leaf vehicles with a safety driver onboard just in case, however that will all change in the future once the process is thoroughly fleshed out.

    In a statement provided by Nuro, Scottsdale, Arizona, Mayor Jim Lane said, “We welcome innovative technology that can benefit the lives of Scottsdale residents. We feel this partnership holds tremendous potential and promise, and offers our residents real, not-yet-experienced convenience for everyday routines.”

  7. Stratolaunch Plans to Develop and Launch Rockets From Under Its Six-Engine Plane

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    Stratolaunch, an aerospace venture created by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, has been working on a massive plane to launch rockets into orbit for some time now.

    To what extent, the public had no idea. That is, until now…

    Stratolaunch is reportedly developing an entire suite of rockets capable of being and carried and launched under its plane’s wings in an effort to have the first rocket ready to roll by 2022.

    In a nutshell, Stratolaunch is working to develop a flying launchpad for, similar to that of Virgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit.

    Stratolaunch, which originally planned to launch rockets for others, has pivoted to focus on its own rockets, the first of which will be capable of carrying about 7,500 pounds into orbit.

    “We are excited to share for the first time some details about the development of our own, proprietary Stratolaunch launch vehicles, with which we will offer a flexible launch capability unlike any other,” Jean Floyd, CEO of Stratolaunch, said in a statement. “Whatever the payload, whatever the orbit, getting your satellite into space will soon be as easy as booking an airline flight.”

  8. Uber Lost $891 Million in the Second Quarter of 2018 Alone

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    Uber brought in $2.8 billion in revenue in the second quarter of 2018, however, the company ended up losing $891 million due to increased spending.

    It turns out the arms race that is self-driving cars of which every major tech company seems to be competing in costs a whole lot of money from R&D to testing on public roads.

    Uber actually turned a small profit in the previous quarter due to its decision to sell its businesses in southeast Asia and Russia to local rivals.

    As Uber looks to go public in 2019, there will be much debate about how much cash the company tends to burn through but at the end of the day it’s a tech company with extreme competition, where spending is bound to happen.

    Uber lost $4.5 billion last year and has burned through $11 billion since its inception in 2009, but reportedly still has $7.3 billion cash on hand.

    While the company’s ‘growth before profit’ notion is admirable, its self-driving car operation is said to be losing as much as $200 million a quarter which could be troublesome moving forward.

  9. US Army to Acquire Airborne Microwave System Which Snipes Drones out of the Sky

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    Lockheed Martin

    Lockheed Martin has developed a drone-demolishing airborne microwave system which quite literally cooks drones in midair.

    If that’s not cool enough, the US Army has announced plans to purchase the technology which can be mounted on a myriad of aircraft in order to swiftly disable drones with a beam of focused radiation.

    Drones are increasingly being utilized in combat and even in a recent assassination attempt in Venezuela so tech capable of eliminating drone threats is becoming more and more sought after.

    Lockheed Martin is developed a similar airborne microwave system for the Air Force, called the Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator.

  10. Tesla Model 3 Production Could Soon Hit 10,000 In One Week

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    It wasn’t easy, but Tesla has finally hit its goal of manufacturing 5,000 Model 3s a week and Elon Musk has no plans of slowing down.

    In fact, Musk now says Tesla is aiming to produce more than 6,000 of the mass-market vehicles a week by the end of the month, with the majority of the company’s factories aiming to manufacture 10,000 in a week by the end of the year.

    Tesla shares are up 4 percent as the company continue to take major leaps forward toward achieving profitability.

  11. American Airlines and Delta Thwart The Idea of Bigger Coach Seats

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    By Cory W. Watts from Madison, Wisconsin, United States of America (American Airlines A300 Main Cabin) [CC BY-SA 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

    The CEOs of American Airlines and Delta aren’t in a hurry to make coach seats any more comfortable in the foreseeable future.

    American Airlines CEO Doug Parker told The Wall Street Journal he rides in coach roughly one-third of the time enabling him to get the same experience as the company’s customers while Delta CEO Ed Bastian said there won’t be changes to seat sizes any time soon simply because airlines aren’t losing money and that’s typically a response to poor performance.

    American Airlines and Delta are a bit notorious for their tight coach seats in addition to legroom up to 2 inches shorter than JetBlue or Southwest offerings.

    I think I speak for most of us in that I can deal with the small seats as long as my flights aren’t constantly getting delayed.

    For now, when it comes to tight coach seating, we don’t have a choice.

  12. Apple Launches Initiative to Generate More Than 4 Gigawatts of Clean Energy in China by 2020

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    According to a press release, Apple is collaborating with 10 other suppliers to jointly invest $300 million over the next four years in China in order to ramp up clean energy within the country.

    “The China Clean Energy Fund” is expected to be responsible for generating more than 1 gigawatt of renewable energy in the country, enough to power 1 million homes.

    By 2020, the initiative aims to generate more than 4 gigawatts of clean energy in China, and marks the latest step in Apple’s commitment to going green worldwide.

  13. Boeing Hypersonic Passenger Jet Could Cut Flight Times by 85 Percent

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    Recently, Boeing unveiled its first concept design for a hypersonic passenger jet. This plane is expected to revolutionize air travel by cutting down a transatlantic flight from New York to London from seven hours to two. The concept was revealed during the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) conference in Atlanta.

    The jet would have a potential top speed of Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound (6,174 kmh/3,836 mph).

    But how is the vehicle going to reach these speeds?

    A type of engine known as a ramjet, a staple of many hypersonic plane designs, is used in the new Boeing plane. The hypersonic jet’s sharp front-end design would produce minimal drag while its split tail would help to stabilize and steer the vehicle.

    The Boeing concept craft will be on display at the forthcoming Farnborough Air Show this month near London.

    “We’re excited about the potential of hypersonic technology to connect the world faster than ever before,” Kevin Bowcutt, Boeing’s senior technical fellow and chief scientist of hypersonics, said in a statement. “Boeing is building upon a foundation of six decades of work designing, developing and flying experimental hypersonic vehicles, which makes us the right company to lead the effort in bringing this technology to market in the future.”

  14. Lyft Acquires the Largest Bike-Sharing Company in the United States

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    By Jim.henderson [CC0], from Wikimedia Commons

    Lyft has agreed to buy Motivate, the bike-sharing company which operates Citi Bike in New York City and Ford’s GoBike program in San Francisco.

    In fact, Motivate is currently the largest bike-sharing company in the states, reportedly responsible for nearly 80 percent of bike-share trips in the country.

    Lyft says it “will invest to establish bike offerings in our major markets and pursue growth and innovation in the markets where Motivate currently operates.” The company added, “Together Lyft and Motivate will revolutionize urban transportation and put bike-share systems across the country on a path toward growth and innovation.”

    The deal is rumored to be around $250 million, with Lyft taking on Motivate’s city contracts.

    In addition to New York City and San Francisco, the company’s bike-sharing networks operate in Chicago, Boston, DC, Portland, Columbus, and Minneapolis.

  15. The Boring Company Will Build a High-Speed Underground Commuter System in Chicago

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    The Boring Company

    The City of Chicago has been conducting a search for a company capable of building a high-speed underground commuter system that will run from the Loop to O’Hare International Airport.

    The search has now come to an end with Elon Musk’s The Boring Company being awarded the contract to construct the transportation marvel.

    According to The Boring Company website, the system will comprise 16-passenger vehicles that will travel up to 150 miles per hour through a tunnel. The system is expected to slice the current 30- to 45-minute trip between the airport and Chicago’s business district down to 12 minutes.

    While Musk’s recent tunneling project in Los Angeles has been the subject of scrutiny, Chicago believes they have their man, citing Tesla and SpaceX as a track record they can trust.

    Boring and Musk have promised that the project will be “100 percent privately funded.”

  16. Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity Successfully Completes Its Second Powered Flight Test

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    Virgin Galactic VSS Unity

    It’s hard to believe that four years have passed since a previous version of Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity fatally crashed after much anticipation surrounded the spacecraft.

    After a long uphill battle, Virgin Galactic’s new VSS Unity successfully completed its second powered flight test last week over the Mojave Desert, moving it one step closer to sending paying customers to space.

    WhiteKnightTwo, a carrier aircraft, released the VSS Unity into the atmosphere at a height of 45,600 feet where the spaceplane, along with its two pilots, reached an altitude of approximately 22 miles above the Earth’s surface and hit a top speed of Mach 1.9.

    “It was great to see our beautiful spaceship back in the air and to share the moment with the talented team who are taking us, step by step, to space,” Virgin Galactic CEO Richard Branson said in a statement. “Seeing Unity soar upwards at supersonic speeds is inspiring and absolutely breathtaking. We are getting ever closer to realizing our goals.”

    The first powered test flight can be seen below.

  17. Boulder-Based Ball Aerospace Will Help Build NASA’s Next-Generation Space Telescope

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    NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab

    NASA’s Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope is expected to be ready for launch by the mid-2020s, dubbed by the space agency as the Hubble Space Telescope’s “wide-eyed cousin.”

    In order to meet the launch date goal, NASA has awarded a contract worth approximately $113.2 million to build primary instrument components to Boulder, Colorado’s Ball Aerospace.

    The next-generation space telescope will take around $3.2 billion to be constructed when it’s all said and done.

    “It’s going to be getting the biggest pictures of the universe we’ve ever had,” said Claire Saravia with the communication’s office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

  18. Fiat Chrysler Recalls Millions of Vehicles Which Have the Potential to Get Stuck in Cruise Control

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    Fiat Chrysler has a terrifying problem on their hands, which exists across a wide range of its vehicles.

    The company has announced a huge recall of 4.8 million vehicles in the United States as a result of an expansive cruise control issue.

    And not just any issues, Fiat Chrysler vehicles have reportedly been getting stuck in cruise control, an allegation the company has confirmed, and encourages all customers with affected vehicles to avoid using cruise control until they visit a service center to have the car’s software upgraded.

    At the moment, Fiat Chrysler says it is “unaware of any related injuries or accidents involving the affected vehicles.”

    A list of affected vehicles can be seen below:

    • 2015-17 Chrysler 200 sedan
    • 2014-18 Chrysler 300 sedan
    • 2017-18 Chrysler Pacifica minivan
    • 2015-18 Dodge Challenger coupe
    • 2014-18 Dodge Charger sedan
    • 2014-18 Dodge Journey CUV
    • 2014-18 Dodge Durango SUV’
    • 2014-18 Jeep Cherokee SUV
    • 2014-18 Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV
    • 2018 Jeep Wrangler
    • 2014-19 Ram 1500 pickup
    • 2014-18 Ram 2500 pickup
    • 2014-18 Ram 3500 pickup
    • 2014-18 Ram 3500 cab chassis
    • 2014-18 Ram 4500/5500 cab chassis
  19. California Becomes First State to Require Solar Panels on All New Homes

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    By MarkBuckawicki [CC0], from Wikimedia Commons

    By MarkBuckawicki [CC0], from Wikimedia Commons

    California is doing what appears to be an inevitability for many places in the future, however is making a bit of history in the process.

    The state is all set to become the first ever to require solar panels on all newly built single-family houses, which once passed by California’s Energy Commission will go into effect in 2020.

    Crazy enough, neither consumers nor voters have a say in the decision which the commission expects will raise the average cost of a new single-family home by $9,500.

    However, it is estimated utility bills will decrease by approximately twice as much over the period of a 30-year mortgage.

  20. Watch Blue Origin Seamlessly Launch and Land Its New Shepard Rocket

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    Blue Origin

    Blue Origin

    Elon Musk isn’t the only super rich fella with a private space company successfully launching and landing rockets.

    Blue Origin and its founder Jeff Bezos recently conducted its eighth test flight of its New Shepherd rocket, which included launching and landing the booster rocket, in addition to its crew capsule shortly after.

    This is a major step in the right direction for Blue Origin as it aims to eventually conduct crewed flights later this year.