This Germ-Killing Robot Could Help Airlines' Hygiene Problem

GermFalcon
GermFalcon

Test any surface inside an airplane, from your tray table to the bathroom’s flush button, and you’ll find big families of bacteria. Airplane cabins are notorious for trapping and ferrying viruses around the world—which is one explanation for why everyone you know seems to get sick after traveling for the holidays. A way to combat this issue is with deeper cabin cleanings between flights. As Travel + Leisure reports, that’s just what the GermFalcon UVC Airplane Cabin Sanitizer was designed to do.

The robot looks like a snack trolley with two collapsible “wings” mounted on top. Metal arms outfitted with ultraviolet C light bulbs unfold above the seats and incinerate any bacteria that land in its path. An apparatus built above head-level shines the germ-zapping rays into the overhead bins. After scanning the aisles, the machine moves on to the bathrooms and galleys. Its creators claim that a five-minute cleaning from the GermFalcon eliminates over 99 percent of the bacteria, viruses, and superbugs that human hands may have missed.

Despite the risk captive viruses pose to passengers and crew members on flights, many airlines still follow the most basic cleaning procedures. The industry standard is a quick cabin cleaning between flights with a deep scrub-down every four months.

And without regulations enforcing stricter cleaning practices, most flight companies aren’t eager to go the extra mile. The GermFalcon has yet to be adopted by a commercial airline, even though the company estimates it would cost companies just $.10 per seat per flight to use it.

If airlines do eventually raise their cleanliness standards, that won’t solve all their health issues. Completely disinfecting the cabin before each flight does nothing to safeguard fliers against the sick passengers sitting next to them. To protect yourself on your next flight, take advantage of the air vent above your seat. It’s a misconception that the air spreads germs: The current can actually blow away microbes encroaching your space. And don’t forget to pack a travel-sized bottle of hand sanitizer in your carry-on.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

The Legend—and Truth—of Silverpilen, Stockholm's Spooky Ghost Train

iStock.com/Willowpix
iStock.com/Willowpix

Public transportation is a marvel of modern technology and a boon to city life. But if you’ve ever stood on a subway platform for a half an hour, you know there are caveats. For the people of Stockholm, you can add “haunted” and “will teleport you to another dimension” to the list of potential train complaints.

The Swedish legend of Silverpilen (or "Silver Arrow") goes back to the 1960s, when the Stockholm Metro purchased eight trains made out of aluminum. The material was standard enough for the time, but most Stockholm Metro cars were painted green. The transit authorities decided to leave these bare, which made them stand out from the rest of the cars. That wasn't the only thing that made the trains seem unusual: the interiors were laid out a little differently, and were missing the usual graffiti and advertisements. Soon, a legend was born: for Stockholm's commuters, any component of public infrastructure so pure—so unblemished—must have been a ghost.

An aluminum train said to be Stockholm's Silver Arrow
Stockholm's Silver Arrow
Maad Dogg 97, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Of course, any good ghost train needs a ghost train station. According to legend, the train’s destination was an equally unsettling, totally abandoned station known as Kymlinge. In Stockholm there’s a saying that loosely translates to: "Only the dead get off at Kymlinge." As the corresponding story goes, once you board the Silver Arrow, you never get off. Not because you get murdered, but because the train gets stuck in some kind of time loop and rides on for eternity.

In another version of the legend, the train does stop eventually, but only once a year. At that point, all the passengers have been on the train for so long that they appear to be among the undead, and are unleashed on the city in some kind of scenario out of The Walking Dead.

The truth of Silverpilen, and Kymlinge, is perhaps more interesting: The city of Stockholm was running the stripped-down train as a test. If the public didn't seem bothered by the bare-bones trains, the local transportation agency figured they would be free to construct a cheaper fleet.

But the people of Sweden thought the Silver Arrow—a nickname that seems to have popped up soon after the trains were introduced—looked derelict, and frankly downright dystopian. The creepiness factor was such that even if the train was running and relatively empty compared to a grimy, old, familiar green train, Stockholm locals avoided it. So while the metro used the trains as backups during rush hour for several decades, they were never very popular.

As for Kymlinge, construction on the station began just a few years after the so-called Silver Arrow started running. It was never finished, because the expected demand for the station, tied to a nearby redevelopment project, never arrived. The bare look of the station must have reminded people of Silverpilen—or people just figured if you come across an abandoned, half-finished subway station, and you already have a creepy ghost train, you’re going to pair them up.


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Ghost Station #kymlinge #blåalinjen

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What’s so wonderful about the story of Silverpilen is that, unlike many urban legends, all the major pieces are real: there really is a silver train and a never-finished abandoned subway station. In fact, the cars of the Silver Arrow train weren’t decommissioned until the 1990s. Despite the fact that the train hasn’t been seen on the tracks for generations, the legend has been passed down, and younger generations of Swedes still whisper about its ghostly presence.

And there's still at least one place the out-of-service cars can be seen: at the Stockholm Police Academy. They’re used to train rookie cops on how to deal with in-process crimes on metro trains—though we're guessing that training does not include ghostbusting.

A version of this piece originally appeared on the Let Me Google That podcast.

Google Translate Now Lets Your Smartphone's Camera Read 13 More Languages in Real Time

iStock.com/nazar_ab
iStock.com/nazar_ab

Your days of lugging around foreign-language dictionaries while traveling are behind you. As VentureBeat reports, Google Translate's in-app camera now recognizes 13 new languages, including Arabic, Hindi, and Vietnamese.

In 2015, the Google Translate app launched a feature that allows users to translate written text in real time. All you need to do to use it is to tap the app's camera icon and point your phone at the words you wish to decode, whether they're on a menu, billboard, or road sign. Almost immediately, the app replaces the text displayed on your camera with the translation in your preferred language.

The tool initially worked with 27 languages and Google has introduced more over the past few years. With the latest additions, Google Translate now recognizes about 50 languages.

Many of the new languages now compatible with Google Translate—including Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Nepali, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Thai—are widely spoken in South Asia. Arabic, Bengali, Hindi, and Punjabi are four of the 10 most common languages on Earth.

Google Translate users can download the new update now for iOS and Android phones.

[h/t VentureBeat]

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