Looking back on the tech trends, triumphs and tribulation of 2013, a few patterns emerge: Private projects took off even while privacy took a beating; robots and AI servants made great strides while their drone cousins stalked us with cameras and weapons; reality was simultaneously augmented and scrutinized, while 3-D-printing and private-sector space races seemingly brought the whole world into the realm of DIY.
Imagine a Mach-20 aircraft capable of flying coast to coast in less time than it takes a passenger to clear security; now imagine the jet lag to follow. If the idea still sounds appealing, bear in mind that the most recent attempt at such a plane flew right out of its own skin before ditching into the Pacific.
Welcome to the world of hypersonic flight.
Of course, that was a military weapons platform; contrary to what some aircraft manufacturers’ flacks would have us believe, passenger planes are likely to remain subsonic or supersonic for the foreseeable future – and for good reason.
Thomas Edison has long enjoyed the incandescent light of public admiration and textbook domination while Nikola Tesla, the scientist and inventor who pioneered the alternating current that truly powers the modern world, has unjustly languished as a footnote in scientific history. Farsighted, quirky, driven and brilliant, Tesla frequently leapfrogged ahead of his contemporaries to the next step, and the next.
Over the course of his long career, Tesla registered over 111 American patents and around 300 patents worldwide, including radio and alternating current. He designed the Niagara Falls power station that provided electricity to most of the northeastern United States. But his loyalty to his first loves, science and progress, cost him his fame, his fortune and, some argue, his sanity. These are just a few of the …
Before the Internet, before personal computers and before he and William English invented the computer mouse, Doug Engelbart had a vision. It entailed putting a computer in every office, sharing ideas and resources across networks and raising the collective IQ of society through human-computer interactions. That dream drove him to design some of the foundational technologies that drive today’s information society – including a few that might surprise you.