TWIE 86: Space - Earth’s New Ashtray

This Week in Engineering - Towing icebergs; tires made from sugar; world’s largest airplane launches space rockets; tax break for space burial; detecting radiation with monkeys; and swimming dolphin-style with jetpack.

Towing icebergs

Tires made from sugar

World¦s largest airplane launches space rockets

Tax break for space burial,0,993488.story

Detecting radiation with monkeys

Swimming dolphin-style with jetpack

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Transcript For This Video

Towing icebergs
A group of engineers and scientists is planning to use a tugboat to tow an iceberg from off the coast of Newfoundland to the very dry Canary Islands near Morocco, to be used as a source of fresh water. A previous attempt to tow icebergs for water failed in the 1970s, but now simulations from Dassault SystFmes have shown that improved technology and knowledge of ocean currents could make the effort commercially viable. Look, I'm all for getting fresh water to thirsty nations by hauling icebergs to them, just as long as they swing around the Caribbean first, so that us cruise ship passengers can ski down them first. I don't ask for much.

Tires made from sugar
Michelin and Goodyear have teamed up with synthetic rubber company Lanxess to produce prototype tires made from sugar instead of rubber. The key is to use microbial fermentation to produce three rubber intermediates: isoprene, isobutene and butadiene, which will allow us to produce the first tires made from completely sustainable and renewable resources, sugar, instead of natural or synthetic rubber. Wow. Tires out of sugar is way better than my idea for making confections out of old tires. I ruined Christmas that year.

World's largest airplane launches space rockets
Startup Stratolaunch Systems is teaming up with SpaceX to create the largest aircraft ever flown, which will carry a SpaceX rocket high into the atmosphere where it can launch into space. The plane will have an amazing three hundred and eighty-five foot wingspan and weigh one point two million pounds, powered by six 747 jet engines, and carry a multi-stage rocket based on the SpaceX Falcon 9. So, let me get this straight, airplanes can launch a Falcon 9, and that's safe. But it's unsafe to take off while my Kindle is turned on. Can someone please explain this to me?

Tax break for space burial
Virginia delegate Terry Kilgore has proposed a bill to the Virginia state legislature to provide a state income tax deduction of up to twenty-five hundred dollars a year, eight grand total, for disposing of a Virginia resident's ashes in space. The legislation is meant to incentivize the space industry at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, from which the spaceflights must take off to be eligible. Also, the tax break expires in 2021, so Virginians, my advice: do not live past 2021, or your dead body won't get the tax break. And nobody wants to lose a tax break. No one.

Detecting radiation with monkeys
Researchers from Japan's Fukushima University are planning to equip monkeys native to the forests around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, to learn more about radiation levels. The wild monkeys, which move over wide areas and at many elevations, will be tranquilized, fitted with collars that have radiation meters and GPS devices, and then released. This gives me a great movie idea. Check this out: a monkey gets to the Fukushima plant, gets exposed to radiation, which makes him super-intelligent, and he's all, "Maniacs! You blew it up! Damn you all to hell!"

Swimming dolphin-style with jetpack
Frankie Zapata, a professional French jet ski racer, has developed the Flyboard, a jetpack that shoots out water and can propel him both above and below the surface. Control is provided by additional jets aimed by his hands, and the jets are powerful enough for him to climb over 30 feet high. All this playing like a dolphin will cost you about sixty-four hundred dollars. But what about playing like a Great White? Costs the same, you just do it with a harbor seal in your mouth.