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Gamera, the Human-Powered Helicopter from Maryland

The Sikorsky Prize has been unclaimed since its establishment in 1980. The winner will take $250,000 for achieving a simple-sounding set of goals: make a human-powered helicopter that can fly for 60 seconds, reach an altitude of 3 meters, and remain within a 10-meter square area during that time. It turns out this is incredibly hard to do.

In the video below, a team of students from the University of Maryland attempt to claim the prize. Their helicopter is named Gamera, after the flying monster turtle of Japanese pop culture. The students' university claims the Diamondback Terrapin, a native Maryland turtle, as its mascot -- so naturally, their flying machine must be a flying turtle.

This five-minute film is riveting; it's a mixture of science and sport, and the moments of tension as they struggle to achieve the prize are nail-biters. Enjoy.

Human-Powered Helicopters: Straight Up Difficult from NPR on Vimeo.

NPR has a much longer story on the prize and other attempts to claim it (this video is a portion of that story). From their article (emphasis added):

Gamera is so light that the draft from an air-conditioning unit can swamp a flight. And on its way down, it tends to catch air like a falling piece of paper, drifting out of its 10-meter box and into a wall — or sometimes, into a spectator. No one has ever been hurt, but the structure has suffered some nasty breaks.

"That's when we learn — when things break, we know we have to make them stronger," [Graham] Bowen-Davies says.

See also: Ransom Riggs rounding up 4 Ways to Fly Like A Bird in 2008.

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Sylke Rohrlach, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0
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Animals
These Strange Sea Spiders Breathe Through Their Legs
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Sylke Rohrlach, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

We know that humans breathe through their lungs and fish breathe through their gills—but where exactly does that leave sea spiders?

Though they might appear to share much in common with land spiders, sea spiders are not actually arachnids. And, by extension, they don't circulate blood and oxygen the way you'd expect them to, either.

A new study from Current Biology found that these leggy sea dwellers (marine arthropods of the class Pycnogonida) use their external skeleton to take in oxygen. Or, more specifically: They use their legs. The sea spider contracts its legs—which contain its guts—to pump oxygen through its body.

Somehow, these sea spiders hardly take the cake for Strangest Spider Alive (especially because they're not actually spiders); check out, for instance, our round-up of the 10 strangest spiders, and watch the video from National Geographic below:

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iStock
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Food
How to Make Perfect Fried Chicken, According to Chemistry
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iStock

Cooking amazing fried chicken isn’t just art—it’s also chemistry. Learn the science behind the sizzle by watching the American Chemical Society’s latest "Reactions" video below.

Host Kyle Nackers explains the three important chemical processes that occur as your bird browns in the skillet—hydrolysis, oxidation, and polymerization—and he also provides expert-backed cooking hacks to help you whip up the perfect picnic snack.

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