1 Solar plane completes world trip (Damian Carrington in The Guardian) Solar Impulse 2 has completed the first round-the-world flight by a solar-powered aeroplane, after touching down in Abu Dhabi early on Tuesday.
The final leg of the feat, aimed at showcasing the potential of renewable energy, was a bumpy one, with turbulence driven by hot desert air leaving the solo pilot, Bertrand Piccard, fighting with the controls.
The plane, which has a wingspan wider than a Boeing 747 and carries more than 17,000 solar cells on its wings, began the circumnavigation in March 2015 in Abu Dhabi. It has since crossed both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans using no fossil fuel and has spent more than 23 days in the air.
Piccard said he was feeling emotional as he neared the end of the journey: “It is a very, very special moment – it has been 15 years that I am working on this goal. I hope people will understand that it is not just a first in the history of aviation, but also a first in the history of energy,” he said.
“All the clean technologies we use, they can be used everywhere. So we have flown 40,000km, but now it is up to other people to take it further. It is up to every person in a house to take it further, every head of state, every mayor in a city, every entrepreneur or CEO of a company.
During daylight, the solar panels charged the plane’s batteries, which make up a quarter of the craft’s 2.3 tonne weight. The pilot also climbed to 29,000 feet during the day and glided down to 5,000 feet at night, to conserve power. The plane flies at about 30mph, although it can go faster if the sun is bright.
Bertrand alternated with André Borschberg to fly the 16 legs of the journey, spending up to five days in the unheated and unpressurised cabin, taking only short naps and with the single seat doubling up as a toilet. Borschberg flew the longest leg, 4,000 miles over the Pacific from Japan to Hawaii, smashing the record for the longest uninterrupted journey in aviation history.
The aim of the Solar Impulse adventure was not to develop solar-powered planes for widespread use, but to show the capabilities of renewable energy.
2 ‘Superbook’ as the office-in-pocket (Khaleej Times) A US-based startup has launched a smart laptop shell that turns your Android smartphone into a complete laptop, making it more convenient and affordable for people in developing countries like India and South Africa to carry their office in their pocket – literally.
The shell, called ‘Superbook’ by Andromium, makes an Android smartphone output look very much like a desktop environment. It is essentially a “dumb terminal” – a notebook without a processor but with a keyboard, battery, trackpad and display. Andromium launched this ambitious product on Kickstarter – a website “designed to bring creative projects to life” – and is available at $99.
Developed by Andrew Jiang and his team at Andromium, Superbook provides a large screen, keyboard and multi-touch trackpad, more than eight hours of battery and phone-charging capabilities. When plugged into an Android smartphone, it launches an app that will deliver a full laptop experience to its user.
According to Jiang, the app is essentially Android Continuum that lets you work seamlessly, going from phone to notebook.
3 Dutch are the world’s tallest (Jonathan Amos on BBC) When it comes to height, Dutch men and Latvian women tower over all other nationalities, a new study confirms. The average Dutchman is now 183cm (6ft) tall, while the average Latvian woman reaches 170cm (5ft 7in).
The research, published in the journal eLife, has tracked growth trends in 187 countries since 1914. It finds Iranian men and South Korean women have had the biggest spurts, increasing their height by an average of more than 16cm (6in) and 20cm (8in).
In the UK, the sexes have gone up virtually in parallel by about 11cm (4in). “Mr Average” in Britain is now 178cm (5ft 10in) tall; Ms Average stands at 164cm (5ft 5in).
This contrasts for example with men and women in the US, where the height of the nation’s people started to plateau in the 1960s and 1970s. Over the century, they have seen increases of just 6cm and 5cm (a couple of inches), respectively.
Indeed, Americans have tumbled down the rankings. Back in 1914, they had the third tallest men and fourth tallest women on the planet. Today they are in 37th and 42nd place. The height charts are now utterly dominated by European countries, but the data would suggest that growth trends in general in the West have largely levelled out.
The smallest men on the planet are to be found in East Timor (160cm; 5ft 3in). The world’s smallest women are in Guatemala, a status they also held back in 1914. According to the survey data, a century ago the average Guatemalan 18-year-old female was 140cm (4ft 7in). Today she has still not quite reached 150cm (4ft 11in).
Some of the variation in height across the globe can be explained by genetics, but the study’s authors say our DNA cannot be the dominant factor. Lead scientist Majid Ezzati said: “About a third of the explanation could be genes, but that doesn’t explain the change over time. Changes over time and variations across the world are largely environmental. That’s at the whole population level versus for any individual whose genes clearly matter a lot.”