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Chris RollinsRSS Feed of this column.

Chris Rollins is a recent graduate in aerospace engineering from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. When he's not snowboarding, he's writing about or researching physics, astronautics, or science policy.... Read More »

Lockheed Martin has just delivered the most recent upgrade of the military's cargo backbone, the C-5M Super Galaxy, to the U.S. Air Force at Warner Robins Air Logistics Center, Robins AFB, Georgia. The aircraft contains a host of upgrades and modernizations intended to help its keep its status as the dominant cargo plane of the U.S. Military.
It may seem, at least to those of us who have been alive long enough to witness any of the advances in semiconductor technology, that computer power has been improving at breakneck speed. A quantum computer, however - a theoretical type of computer that utilizes the states of atoms to store information instead of magnetic fields - may make our current conception of computing power completely obsolete. And now, new research into the storage and retrieval of quantum information has brought quantum computing one step closer to reality.
So if you are still unsure whether it's unsafe to drive while talking on a cell phone, come out of your cave.  Multiple recent studies have supported that cell phone use endangers drivers. It seems that every week or so there's a new study out linking increased reaction times to the distraction caused by having a cell phone conversation, often comparing it to other types of impairments such as drinking or listening to the radio. As the research becomes more and more conclusive, scientists have attempted to find comparisons that are relevant than just a number in milliseconds.
Wouldn't it be great if your cell phone or mp3 player could charge itself? What if your house could generate electricity from the noise of the cars on the road? Or if the waste heat generated by your air conditioner could help put a dent in that expensive summer electric bill? As the demand for cheaper and more renewable energy sources increases, piezoelectrics - a class of material that produces an electric potential when mechanically deformed - may hold the key to unlocking the energy flowing all around us.
It's an idea that has pervaded a huge amount of science fiction and fantasy stories, from Star Trek to Harry Potter, and there are few of us that would deny a couple of hours with one - but is an invisibility cloak actually possible? Although the lightweight, flowing cloak of Harry Potter may be impossible in the near future, scientists are quickly creating and studying new metamaterials - materials with a negative index of refraction - that are paving the way to making invisibility a reality.
What color is the number 7? How does a symphony taste? What temperature is a muted television? A synesthete could tell you, with great certainty and consistency, the answers to the above questions, and describe many more sensory associations that seem irrelevant to most people.

Approximately 1 in 1000 people experience synesthesia - the elicitation of a sensory response independent of the stimulus itself. For instance, viewing a number or hearing a phonetic sound may elicit a colored response in the visual field, or a certain visual stimulus may elicit an auditory response.