BITS ‘N’ PIECES
Engineers are exploring radical new designs for commercial planes that would use less energy and lower emissions. But will passengers be willing to board them?
Unconventional designs have been floating for years as possibilities for passenger aircraft. Now the rise of climate-change concerns and emergence of new manufacturing materials have brought such ideas a step closer to reality.
In June, NASA launched a competition for U.S. companies to design and build a full-scale demonstrator. The agency wants a prototype that could carry 150 passengers, fly as early as 2027 and be ready for mass production in the next decade.
Aircraft designers have coalesced around three main designs, which people involved in the contest said are expected to feature prominently in the entries. They carry exotic names—such as transonic truss-braced wings, blended-wing bodies and double bubbles—that reflect how far removed they are from most of the conventional planes that now carry commercial passengers worldwide.
Such designs promise improved fuel efficiency and lower emissions, mainly from reducing aerodynamic drag. But while big aircraft buyers, like the broader industry, support the aims of reducing its climate footprint, they question the economics of the new designs.
A new dinosaur species discovered in Mongolia is being called the first prehistoric meat-eater ever found with two legs and a streamlined body adapted for diving and hunting underwater.
The duck-size predator, described in a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Communications Biology, belongs to the same group of feathered dinosaurs that includes the Velociraptors made famous by the Jurassic Park movies.
The animal was dubbed Natovenator polydontus, meaning ‘swimming hunter with many teeth.’
The fossilized bones of the tiny predator were discovered in a rock formation in the Gobi Desert in southern Mongolia in 2008. The formation dates back about 70 million years, or roughly five million years before the asteroid impact that is believed to have ended the reign of the dinosaurs.
The international team of researchers behind the discovery thought initially that the animal might have been a lizard or a mammal. But CT scans conducted at Seoul National University helped show it to be a dinosaur with a streamlined body, a goose-like neck and a jaw tightly packed with teeth.
The discovery adds to a body of evidence indicating that dinosaurs were better adapted to living in a wider range of ecosystems than paleontologists once thought.