CLOSE
Original image

Spira: The Foam Car

Original image

The Spira foam car is a the brainchild of Lon Ballard, who began the project by looking for ways to incorporate vehicle safety technology for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcycle riders as well as those inside the vehicle. He decided that foam is a good substitute for airbags. From installing foam here and there in existing vehicles, he eventually created a car with foam all over. In fact, the Spira is 90% foam!
*
Not to be confused with the Korean Spirra sports car, the Spira is a really small car. It's made of foam, fiberglass, and aluminum. The whole thing weighs about 300 pounds, less if you take the convertible top off. The upside of such a lightweight car is that when you break down on the road, two people can pick it up and put it on the shoulder. The downside is that you might get hit by another car first.

Well, there are other advantages in a small, lightweight car. It get 100 miles to the gallon, which is at least twice what the car you're driving gets. More likely three or four times as much. If you drive it or fall into the water, it will float! And if you hit a pedestrian with it, chances are they won't die. Or rather, the chances of surviving are a bit better than getting hit by a regular car. The Spira can travel as fast as 70 mph with its 110cc engine. Even a nerf ball can hurt when it hits you at 70 mph. Oh sure, Ballard's dream is for everyone to drive a foam car, in which case we'd all be safer, but in reality you have to worry about the Mac trucks you share the road with.

Spira is competing for the Automotive X PRIZE, to win 2.5 million dollars in development money plus priceless publicity. Will people drive a three-wheeled two-seater vehicle made of foam that looks like a Croc shoe?  I honestly doubt it. But it may have a great future as a cooler for your camper.

Original image
iStock
arrow
Live Smarter
Why the Best Time to Book Your Thanksgiving Travel Is Right Now
Original image
iStock

You're never going to get a true steal on holiday plane tickets, but if you want to avoid spending your whole salary flying to visit your relatives over Thanksgiving, the time is nigh to start picking seats. That's according to the experts at Condé Nast Traveler, who cite data from Expedia and Skyscanner.

The latter found that it was cheapest to secure Thanksgiving tickets 11 weeks before the holiday. That means that you should have bought your ticket around September 4, but it's not too late; you can still save if you book now. Expedia's data shows that the cheapest time to buy is 61 to 90 days before you leave, so you still have until September 23 to snag a seat on a major airline without paying an obscene premium. (Relatively speaking, of course.)

When major travel holidays aren't involved, data shows that the best time to book a plane ticket is on a Sunday, at least 21 days ahead of your travel. But given that millions of other Americans also want to fly on the exact same days during Thanksgiving and Christmas, the calculus of booking is a bit more high stakes. If you sleep on tickets this month, you could be missing out on hundreds of dollars in savings. In the recent study cited by Condé Nast Traveler, Expedia found that people booking during the 61- to 90-day window saved up to 10 percent off the average ticket price, while last-minute bookers who bought tickets six days or less from their travel day paid up to 20 percent more.

Once you secure those Turkey Day tickets, you've got a new project: Your Christmas flights. By Hopper's estimates, those flights rise in price by $1.50 every day between the end of October and December 15 (after which they get even more expensive). However, playing the waiting game can be beneficial, too. Expedia found that the cheapest time to book Christmas flights was just 14 to 20 days out.

Before you buy, we also recommend checking CheapAir.com, which tracks 11,000 different airfares for flights around the holidays to analyze price trends. Because as miserable as holiday travel can be, you don't want to pay any more than you have to.

[h/t Condé Nast Traveler]

Original image
arrow
History
How the Wright Brothers' Plane Compares to the World's Largest Aircraft
Original image

The Wright brothers famously built the world’s first powered, heavier-than-air, controllable aircraft. But while the siblings revolutionized the field of aviation, their early plane looks tiny—and dare we say quaint-looking—when compared to the aerial giants that came after it.

In Tech Insider’s video below, you can see how the Wright brothers’ flyer stacks up against the scale of other aircrafts. You'll notice that size doesn't always guarantee a successful journey. The Hughes H-4 Hercules—the largest flying boat ever made—never made it past the prototype stage, performing only one brief flight in 1947. And the Hindenburg, which was 804 feet long and could fit 80 Olympic swimming pools, famously exploded on May 6, 1937.

Today’s longest commercial airliner is the Boeing 747-8, which measures 251 feet from nose to tail. While slightly shorter (238 feet), the Airbus A380 is certified to hold more people than any other plane in the air—a total of 850 passengers. That record won't last long, though: In a few years, the Stratolaunch carrier—the widest aircraft ever built—will dwarf its contemporaries when it takes to the skies in 2019. Built to launch rockets into orbit, its wingspan is about the size of a football field, even bigger than that of the Hughes H-4 Hercules.

Still, what the Wright brothers’ plane lacked in size, it made up for in ingenuity. Without it, these other giants may never have existed.

[h/t: Tech Insider]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios