World’s First Pentacontakaitetracopter Takes Flight

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s...a middle-aged British man in what looks to be a modified lawn chair powered by dozens of toy helicopters. Just as Orville and Wilbur Wright first proved the possibility of human flight on a beach in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, YouTuber gasturbine101 has answered the unasked question–“Can 54 drone rotors be assembled in such a way that they lift a seated human being into the air for a sustained period of time?”–with a resounding yes (disregarding the perhaps equally important, though much less fun, question of “But why would you?”).

As silly as the pentacontakaitetracopter (derived from the Greek words for a 54-sided polygon and “copter,” coined by a clever Reddit wordsmith) setup looks, it’s a serious piece of kit. The inventor/flight tester chose 54 rotors in order to arrange them neatly along a hexagonal plane; there’s room in the center for 6 more, but he wisely chose to install a polycarbonate dome instead to protect his head. The dome also contributes to the aircraft’s overall lift by “catching some ground effect pressure rise,” and “also doubles as a rain shelter”—after all, this test flight did take place in England. The aircraft weighs 148 kg or about 326 lb, but can carry an additional 164 kg, or 361 lb, enough for a pilot and maybe a friend. Though the video shows only a few seconds of the copter in flight at a time, the creator claims it can make a journey of up to ten minutes, putting Wilbur Wright’s first day flight record of 59 seconds to shame.

Gasturbine101 admits that there is no higher purpose to his project, which he undertook as “just a bit of fun for [myself], never intended for making a significant journey or flying much above head height.” As far as backyard stunts go, this is a pretty costly one: Gasturbine101 estimated the project cost at £6000, or roughly $10,000. However, if that budget isn’t deterrent enough, it should explicitly be said that this is not a project anyone should try at home. The video’s cameraman—who can be heard at around the 2:25 mark yelling, “Paul! Paul, be careful!”—would likely say the same.

[h/t The Guardian]

Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images
How a Hairdresser Found a Way to Fight Oil Spills With Hair Clippings
Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images
Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images

The Exxon Valdez oil tanker made global news in 1989 when it dumped millions of gallons of crude oil into the waters off Alaska's coast. As experts were figuring out the best ways to handle the ecological disaster, a hairdresser from Alabama named Phil McCroy was tinkering with ideas of his own. His solution, a stocking stuffed with hair clippings, was an early version of a clean-up method that's used at real oil spill sites today, according to Vox.

Hair booms are sock-like tubes stuffed with recycled hair, fur, and wool clippings. Hair naturally soaks up oil; most of the time it's sebum, an oil secreted from our sebaceous glands, but it will attract crude oil as well. When hair booms are dragged through waters slicked with oil, they sop up all of that pollution in a way that's gentle on the environment.

The same properties that make hair a great clean-up tool at spills are also what make animals vulnerable. Marine life that depends on clean fur to stay warm can die if their coats are stained with oil that's hard to wash off. Footage of an otter covered in oil was actually what inspired Phil McCroy to come up with his hair-based invention.

Check out the full story from Vox in the video below.

[h/t Vox]

This Waterless Toilet Made of Mushrooms Could Be Key for Refugee Needs

In many parts of the world, toilets remain out of reach. An estimated one in three people in the world don't have access to a toilet, and one in nine people don't have access to safe water (in large part because of that lack of toilets). A group of students from the University of British Columbia have come up with a new way to give people without plumbing clean, safe places to do their business, and according to Co.Design the key is mushrooms.

The MYCOmmunity Toilet, which just won the 2018 Biodesign Challenge, is a portable toilet kit designed for refugee camps that uses a mycelium (a mushroom product) tank to eventually turn human waste into compost. Everything needed to set up the toilet is packed into one kit, which users can set up into a small, sit-down toilet with a traditional seat and a tank for waste. The appliance is designed to fit into a refugee tent and serve a family of six for up to a month.

The toilet separates solid and liquid waste for separate treatment. Enzyme capsules can be used to neutralize the smell of urine and start the decomposition, and poop can be covered in sawdust or other material to tamp down odors and rev up the composting process. After the month is up and the tank is full, the whole thing can be buried, and the mushroom spores will speed along the process of turning it into compost. The kit comes with seeds that can be planted on top of the buried toilet, turning the waste into new growth. (Biosolids have been used to fertilize crops for thousands of years.)

The University of British Columbia students—led by Joseph Dahmen, an assistant professor in the architecture school, and Steven Hallam, a professor in the department of microbiology and immunology—competed against 20 other design teams at the 2018 Biodesign Summit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in June, taking home first prize. They hope to further refine the prototype in the future, and according to Co.Design, test it out at local music festivals, which, with their outdoor venues and high volume of drunk pee-ers, are the perfect venue to stress test waterless toilet technology.

[h/t Co.Design]


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