Hyperloop CEO: ‘We’re trying to make travel suck less’

Aug. 12, 2013: Concept sketches for the Hyperloop transportation system, which uses electromagnets and pneumatic tubes to transport people (and cars) at up to 800 miles per hour. (Elon Musk)

Aug. 12, 2013: Concept sketches for the Hyperloop transportation system, which uses electromagnets and pneumatic tubes to transport people (and cars) at up to 800 miles per hour. (Elon Musk)

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies CEO Dirk Ahlborn says that the high-speed technology could make public transport systems across the world faster and more cost effective.

“We’re trying to make travel suck less,” he explained, during the DLD conference in New York on Tuesday. “We’re trying to fix public transport.”

Unveiled amid much fanfare by SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk in 2013, Hyperloop aims to transport people (and cars) at speeds of up to  800 mph. Using Hyperloop, for example, passengers could one day make the journey between San Francisco and Los Angeles in 30 minutes.

Hyperloop will use sleek pods that hover on a thin cushion of air as they shoot through low-pressure tubes, sped forward by electromagnets.

Related: MIT wins design competition for Elon Musk’s Hyperloop

During an on-stage discussion with Jennifer Dungs of mobility and engineering systems specialist Fraunhofer IAO, Ahlborn explained that public transportation systems all over the world are losing money.

“Speed is one of the advantages [of Hyperloop], but it’s not the only one,” he said. “Building something that has economic sense, that has a good business model behind it, for me, is even more important.”

The tubes, which are supported by pylons, offer lower construction and land acquisition costs than railways, according to Hyperloop Transportation Technologies. Described as a self-sufficient system, Hyperloop will draw power from solar panels.

Related: Hoverboard company Arx Pax touts hover engines for Elon Musk’s Hyperloop

Other methods could also be used to reduce public transport costs. “Do we need a ticket? Or is there a better way to monetize?” asked Ahlborn.

The CEO explained that Hyperloop Transport Technologies recently signed an agreement with the government of Slovakia, which could one day use the system to connect Bratislava with Budapest and Vienna. The company is also having discussions in India and Asia, he said.

Last year the company announced an agreement to build the first Hyperloop system in Quay Valley, Calif. Ahlborn told FoxNews.com Hyperloop expects to break ground on the 5-mile test track this year.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

Loony inventor creates working hoverbike

 Image result for Loony inventor creates working hoverbike

A crackpot plumber and inventor has taken to the air in a hoverbike he built.

Colin Furze has unveiled his drone bicycle powered by a pair of two-stroke engines and rotor blades.

“It’s the most outrageous thing I’ve ever ridden,” he said.

“Feeling it lift for the first time was such a strange feeling. It only just lifts me off the ground.

“I tried out all sorts of frames; hacked bits off and added bits on, until eventually I started seeing results.”

“The fact the hoverbike worked at all is a miracle, which proves you should try stuff even if you think you know the outcome.”

Experts unearth new ‘mythical beast’ Nazca lines

(Yamagata University)

(Yamagata University)

Researchers from Japan’s Yamagata University working in the Nazca Pampas of Ica, Peru have announced the discovery of a geoglyph with quite a story to tell.

In the central area of the Nazca Pampas, near the Majuleos gully, the team discovered an image thought to be the depiction of an animal with its tongue sticking out, spotted markings on the body and many legs. The team believes that it represents an imaginary or mythical creature, and the scene is one of a decapitation.

Related: Buddhist sculptures discovered in ruins of ancient shrine

According to the team, the image was created using a technique from the Late Paracas Period, (400-200 B.C.) where darker surface stones are removed to expose the lighter ground beneath them. The removed stones are then piled up in order to shape the image.

The team was in its eighth season on location and had discovered another geoglyph nearby in 2011. Both images are located on the slopes and the team said they were easily identified at the ground level.

Related: Shackled skeletons could be ancient Greek rebels

Masoto Sakai and Jorge Olano, of Yamagata University, wrote on the University’s website, “Between these two geoglyphs was found an ancient path leading to the ceremonial center of Cahuachi. We suspect that the geoglyphs were probably related to the pilgrimage to Cahuachi.”

Captain Cook’s ship Endeavour ‘found’ in Newport Harbor

File photo - Crew members sit atop the masts of a replica of the famous 18th century ship The Endeavour in Botany Bay. (REUTERS/David Gray)

File photo – Crew members sit atop the masts of a replica of the famous 18th century ship The Endeavour in Botany Bay. (REUTERS/David Gray) (REUTERS)

Marine archaeologists say they have likely found HMS Endeavour, which Capt. Cook sailed on when he discovered Australia, at the bottom of Newport Harbor.

The Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP) says that Endeavour, which was renamed Lord Sandwich, is one of 13 ships scuttled in Newport Harbor in 1778. Lord Sandwich had been used to transport troops during the American Revolution and was scuttled in the days leading up to the Battle of Rhode Island.

The vessel was a bark, or three-masted sailing ship.

Related: Home long thought to be Monroe’s turns out to be guest house

RIMAP used a grant from the Australian National Maritime Museum to locate documents in London that identify the groups of ships in the 13-vessel fleet, and where each group was scuttled. “One group of 5 ships included the Lord Sandwich transport, formerly Capt. James Cook’s Endeavour Bark,” said RIMAP, on its website.

RIMAP says that it knows the general area of Newport Harbor where the five ships were scuttled and has already mapped four of the sites there.  “A recent analysis of remote sensing data suggests that the 5th site may still exist, too,” the group explained. “That means the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project now has an 80 to 100% chance that the Lord Sandwich is still in Newport Harbor.”

A RIMAP spokesman told FoxNews.com that the group will provide more details of its plans to confirm the fifth shipwreck at a meeting on May 4. RIMAP will also outline what needs to be done to confirm which ships are in which locations.

Related: Titanic treasures sold at UK auction

“The next phase of the archaeological investigation will require a more intense study of each vessel’s structure and its related artifacts,” explains RIMAP, on its website. “However, before that next phase may begin, there must be a proper facility in place to conserve, manage, display, and store the waterlogged material removed from the archaeological sites.”

May 4 marks Rhode Island’s 240th birthday. “For RIMAP to be closing in one of the most important shipwrecks in world history, for that ship to be found in Newport, and for it to have an international reputation, should be an intriguing birthday gift for all of Rhode Island,” explains RIMAP, on its website.

Related: The ‘Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay’ in pictures

Marine archaeologists have made a number of fascinating finds in recent years. Last year, for example, treasure said to belong to the infamous pirate Captain Kidd was found by divers in the waters of the Indian Ocean off Madagascar.

Earlier this year the 500-year old wreck of a Portuguese ship piloted by an uncle of explorer Vasco da Gama was found off the coast of Oman.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Dutch dreamer hopes to bring Noah’s Ark replica to Americas

The ark is a major tourist attraction in Holland, but could be bound for the Americas. (Ark of Noah Foundation)

The ark is a major tourist attraction in Holland, but could be bound for the Americas. (Ark of Noah Foundation)

A Dutch carpenter inspired by a dream to build a massive replica of Noah’s Ark has a new and equally daunting vision – to bring the 410-foot vessel to the Americas in time for this summer’s Olympic Games in Brazil.

Johan Huibers’ impressive boat, built at a cost of nearly $4 million, is currently moored in Dordrecht, some 60 miles south of Amsterdam. A popular tourist attraction drawing as many as 3,000 visitors a day, the ark is an interactive museum and event center. Hauling it across the ocean in time to reach an international audience would cost an estimated $1.5 million, according to a California nonprofit recently established to help Huibers realize his latest dream.

“If we are able to purchase a barge, that will make taking it to every port in South and North America a very real possibility,” David Rivera, of The Ark of Noah Foundation, told FoxNews.com.

The group needs a miracle to achieve Huibers’ latest goal, as just under $1,800 has trickled in to date. But Huibers’s history of overcoming long odds is testament to his tenacity. His life’s work began with a dream, which he was later able to achieve after his contracting business made him a multimillionaire.

“[I hope] to see happy faces, explain the story of the Ark as a tool of God to give hope to mankind.”

– Johan Huibers

“In 1992 I had a dream about the Netherlands being underwater [due to] a flood,” Huibers, 57, told FoxNews.com. “A short time after, I saw a book and I read it to my children. It showed pictures of the Great Flood. I said then that I want to build the ark. Thirteen years later, I had the means and time to do it.”

At 410 feet long, 95 feet wide and 75 feet high, the ark is half the size of the specifications described in the Bible. It is made of cedar and pine and was built atop a steel barge in the river port of Schagen, some 30 miles north of Amsterdam. Since its completion, it has been towed by canal tugboats to Rotterdam and Arnhem, as well as to its current base.

Completing the 2,500-ton ark took more than four years, during which time Huibers and a crew that included random volunteers, his son and even the local butcher, often slept aboard the 95-foot-wide, 75-foot- high vessel. Given the time and money that went into building the ark, as well as its popularity, Rivera believes bringing it more than 5,200 miles to Brazil is a prophecy that can be fulfilled.

“The price point is actually low,” Rivera said optimistically. “It’s been reduced a bit because of falling oil prices.”

Rivera, an Air Force veteran and retired 3M executive, became involved with the effort to bring the ark to the Americas after visiting it in the Netherlands.

“I was just in awe of the size,” said Rivera, who worked with Huibers to establish the tax-deductible charity to raise funds. “The dimensions. The scale of it. I found it overwhelming, in a good sense.”

The to-date vastly underfunded plan would have the ark docked in the Brazilian city of Fortaleza for as long as four years, with trips penciled in to cities along the South American coast, through the Panama Canal and to U.S. cities along the West Coast.

“I hope that visitors will learn of true hope,” Huibers said.  “[I hope] to see happy faces, explain the story of the Ark as a tool of God to give hope to mankind.”

Although the ark can hold up to 5,000 people, there are no live critters aboard, much less two of everything. But models of the animals the Bible says Noah saved from a devastating flood are part of the museum experience. If they can get it to Brazil, they hope to use proceeds from admissions to create more interactive exhibits, including ones that would feature hologram animals.

“Once in Fortaleza, we will make upgrades to allow visitors of seeing a Bible story come to life,” Rivera said.

Time is running out for Huibers and Rivera to raise the money needed to get the ark to Brazil by early August, when the Olympics begin. But as the foundation’s motto states, above a logo showing a sea of umbrellas opened against an epic downpour, “There is always hope.”

Perry Chiaramonte is a reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter at@perrych

Supersharp Mars photos show UK’s long-lost Beagle 2 lander

  • Original photo by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter showing Europe's Beagle 2 lander on the Red Planet (left), compared with a new "super-resolution restoration" image of the same site (right).

    Original photo by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter showing Europe’s Beagle 2 lander on the Red Planet (left), compared with a new “super-resolution restoration” image of the same site (right). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona/Yu Tao et al/University College London)

New supersharp photos of Mars show Europe’s long-lost Beagle 2 lander, ancient Red Planet lake beds and snaking rover tracks in unprecedented detail.

Scientists “stacked and matched” photos captured over the years by NASA’s eagle-eyed Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) using new machine-vision methods, creating images in which features just 2 inches wide can be seen.

This resolution is five times greater than MRO or any other instrument orbiting Earth or Mars had been able to achieve, researchers said. Further use of this technique could help space agencies select safe landing sites for future Mars missions, search for pieces of other lost Red Planet hardware and perform a variety of other science work, they added. [Mars: The Spacecraft Graveyard]

“We now have the equivalent of drone-eye vision anywhere on the surface of Mars where there are enough clear repeat pictures,” study co-author Jan-Peter Muller, of University College London’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory, said in a statement. “It allows us to see objects in much sharper focus from orbit than ever before, and the picture quality is comparable to that obtained from landers.”

“As more pictures are collected, we will see increasing evidence of the kind we have only seen from the three successful rover missions to date,” Muller added, referring to NASA’s Pathfinder, Spirit/Opportunity and Curiosity missions. “This will be a game changer and the start of a new era in planetary exploration.”

The team applied the new technique to a variety of regions imaged by MRO, including the ancient, potentially habitable lake beds explored by Curiosity; the “Home Plate” region traversed by Spirit; and the site where Europe’s first Mars lander, Beagle 2, touched down in December 2003. [The Search for Beagle 2 on Mars in Photos]

The United Kingdom-led Beagle 2 was part of the European Space Agency’s Mars Express mission, which launched in June 2003 and arrived at the Red Planet six months later. The lander detached from its mother ship, the Mars Express orbiter, on Dec. 19, 2003, and was supposed to touch down on Christmas Day.

Beagle 2 never called its handlers from the Martian surface, and many experts assumed the craft had crashed. But last year, officials with the UK Space Agency announced that they had spotted the lander in MRO photos. These images appeared to show partially deployed solar arrays, suggesting that Beagle 2 had succeeded in touching down softly.

The newly released photos give the best looks yet at Beagle 2, which measures just 7 feet wide, scientists said.

The research team, led by Yu Tao of University College London, described the new “Super-Resolution Restoration” technique in a study that was published in the journal Planetary and Space Science in February. But team members have only recently begun using the method to zero in on specific locations on Mars.

The Mars Express orbiter continues to operate to this day.

Watch this breathtaking video of a solar flare

NOW PLAYINGNASA releases video of incredible solar flare

NASA has released an awe-inspiring video of a solar flare that erupted on the sun on April 17. The video shows a bright, strobe-like flash on the sun’s right side, which the space agency said was a “mid-level” solar flare.

The solar storm was captured by a NASA craft called the Solar Dynamics Observatory, which was launched in 2010.

Because it was recorded in ultraviolet light, the video has been color-coded, NASA said. Solar flares and their radiation can disrupt communications, but according to NASA, this one “only caused brief radio blackouts.”

Related: NASA discovers a moon around dwarf planet Makemake

The Solar Dynamics Observatory said that this region of the sun had so far only displayed minor flares, and that the arches in the footage after the flare is the sun’s “magnetic field reorganizing itself.”

The sun’s most intense flares, called “X-class,” are ten times bigger than “M-class” flares, which this one was, NASA said.

Archaeologists discover 4,800-year-old fossil of mother cradling a baby

A view of a fossil of a mother and baby in Taichung City, Taiwan, April 26, 2016 in this still image taken from video. (REUTERS/via Reuters TV)

A view of a fossil of a mother and baby in Taichung City, Taiwan, April 26, 2016 in this still image taken from video. (REUTERS/via Reuters TV)

In a discovery perfectly timed for Mother’s Day, archaeologists in Taiwan have unearthed the 4,800-year-old human fossil of a mother cradling an infant in her arms.

The mother and child were found among 48 sets of remains in the Taichung area, Reuters reports. The remains are the earliest evidence of human activity in central Taiwan.

Officials at Taiwan’s National Museum of Natural Science announced the discovery Tuesday.

Related: Shackled skeletons could be ancient Greek rebels

“When it was unearthed, all of the archaeologists and staff members were shocked. Why? Because the mother was looking down at the baby in her hands,” explained Chu Whei-lee, a curator in the Anthropology Department at Taiwan’s National Museum of Natural Science.

Reuters reports the excavation project in Taichung started in May 2014 and was finished about a year later. Carbon dating technology was used to find the age of the fossils, which included five children.

Other archaeological sites around the world have also thrown up surprises.  A mass grave uncovered outside Athens, for example, includes a group of skeletons bound with iron shackles. The remains may be followers of Cyclon, who staged an unsuccessful coup against the leader of ancient Greece in 632 B.C.

Related: Pharaoh Ramesses III killed by multiple assailants, radiologist says

Earlier this year experts reported that Pharaoh Ramesses III was likely killed by multiple assailants and given postmortem cosmetic surgery to improve the appearance of his mummy.

Scientists discover hidden Antarctic lake

File photo - A satellite view of Antarctica is seen in this undated NASA handout photo obtained by Reuters February 6, 2012. (REUTERS/NASA/Handout)

File photo – A satellite view of Antarctica is seen in this undated NASA handout photo obtained by Reuters February 6, 2012. (REUTERS/NASA/Handout)

A large, ribbon-shaped lake may be hiding beneath the ice that covers Antarctica, and it may contain countless life forms – unlike any others on earth – that have been trapped, undisturbed, in the frozen continent for millions of years.

Scientists presented radar data that suggest the presence of the lake at the European Geosciences Union meeting in Vienna last week.

The lake, presumed to be lying in a massive canyon system along the continent’s eastern coast in Princess Elizabeth Land, is thought to be 87 miles long and 12 miles wide – much smaller than Lake Vostok, which at 160 x 30 miles is Antarctica’s largest subglacial lake.

Related: March set even more global temperature records, NOAA reports

But the new lake, if confirmed, lies only 62 miles from the nearest research base, which would make it much more accessible than Vostok, which is in a very remote area of the frozen continent.

“We’ve seen these strange, linear channels on the surface, and are inferring these are above massive, 1000-kilometer-long channels, and there’s a relatively large subglacial lake there too,” Martin Siegert of Imperial College of London, a member of the team that collected the data, told New Scientist.

A group of researchers from China and the U.S. flew over the area recently to collect ice-penetrating radar images. Scientists are optimistic that a review of their data next month will confirm the existence of the lake.

Related: British officials unlikely to name new polar vessel Boaty McBoatface

“It’s the last un-researched part of Antarctica, so it’s very exciting news, but it’s still tentative pending full confirmation,” Bryn Hubbard of the University of Aberystwyth, U.K., told New Scientist.

Other subglacial Antarctic lakes have revealed numerous life forms that have been buried, untouched, under the ice for millions of years. Scientists say the discovery of microbes and single-cell organisms frozen in ice raises the possibility that similar life may be found in ice on the moon, or in the polar ice cap of Mars, or on Jupiter’s moon Europa.

Siegert said the lake’s proximity to the research base will make it much easier for scientists to investigate its biology.

William Shatner: ‘Star Trek’ tech is ‘not that far-fetched’

 William Shatner: 'Star Trek' Tech Is 'Not That Far-Fetched'

NOW PLAYINGWilliam Shatner on ‘Star Trek’ 50th anniversary

WASHINGTON — William Shatner knows a thing or two about sci-fi tech. The 85-year-old actor is best known for his portrayal of the fictional Captain James Kirk, the courageous and willful leader of the starship Enterprise from the original “Star Trek” TV series.

The show, which debuted in 1966, exposed audiences to spaceships, intergalactic space travel and a bevy of high-tech, futuristic gadgets. Now, nearly 50 years after the show came on the air, some “Star Trek” technologies exist in real life — everything from automatic doors to cell phones. But, even though humans aren’t zooming to distant worlds at warp speed, or using a “transporter” to teleport between two locations, Shatner says some of the series’ most out-of-this-world tech may not always be so out of reach.

“It’s not that far-fetched,” Shatner told an audience on April 22 here at the Smithsonian magazine’s fourth annual “Future Is Here” festival. [Science Fact of Fiction? The Plausibility of 10 Sci-Fi Concepts]

Fact from fiction

There are several examples of how real-life inventions took cues from “Star Trek.” For instance, the communicator that Captain Kirk uses to talk to his crew is essentially a crude version of today’s cellphones; the USS Enterprise’s communications officer, Nyota Uhura, uses a futuristic-looking earpiece that today would fit right in with contemporary Bluetooth-enabled options; and the automatic sliding doors seen on the starship Enterprise must have seemed revolutionary at the time, but are now so ubiquitous most people likely take them for granted. The design of the starship’s command center, or bridge, was even studied by real-life researchers, Shatner said.

“The Navy did come in and look at some of the ergonomics of the bridge, and apparently copied it,” he said. “A captain of a vessel not too long ago [said] some of the bridge stuff on his ship was designed after what our designers had [done].”

Yet, with other concepts from the show — faster-than-light travel, teleportation and time travel — the gulf between science and science fiction seems to be as wide today as it was 50 years ago.

Conceptually, teleporting a human being from one room to another is thought to be impossible, but on an atomic scale, researchers have made significant strides in the bizarre world of quantum teleportation.

“Although a lot of the concepts in science fiction are absurd to our Newtonian minds, anything is possible because of the new language of quantum physics,” Shatner said.

Quantum physics describes the strange set of rules that govern the behavior of subatomic particles, including why particles can exist in more than one place at the same time. Quantum teleportation relies on so-called “quantum entanglement,” in which particles can interact and become linked so that an action performed on one instantaneously influences the other, even if they are far apart.

Quantum teleportation experiments do not dabble with matter, but rather they aim to beam photons (particles of light that have no mass) between two locations. (In other words, these experiments aren’t teleporting humans anywhere, but the findings are valuable for advances in quantum computing.)

In 2015, physicists set a new distance record in quantum teleportation, beaming photons 63 miles across fiber optics, or four times farther than had been previously demonstrated.

Now what?

“So, where does that leave us?” Shatner said. “Can you transport all the molecules in a human being? Apparently, it’s impossible. Can you transport a replica of that person? [It’s] possible, but the amount of computer energy and space is overwhelming. There’s so much that we imagine in science fiction that is so delightful to think about.”

Time travel is similarly a mystery, though Shatner said people are likely familiar with the sci-fi narrative that involves characters traveling through a wormhole “where time and space is curved,” creating a shortcut between two locations in space or time. But, wormholes are hypothetical features, and so far, they have not been proven to exist. [The 7 Silliest Time Travel Concepts in Science Fiction]

And though faster-than-light travel has been popularized in both the “Star Trek” and “Star Wars” franchises, Albert Einstein’s theory of special relativity says nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, which is 186,282 miles per second (299,792 kilometers per second) in a vacuum.

Still, Shatner said it’s fun to mull over these concepts, and science fiction should always serve as a way to stoke people’s imaginations. And from his perspective (at least when it comes to Hollywood), the future is an exciting place.

“Transporting is where it’s at,” he joked.

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