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Living in the Future: Controlling Electrons, Frozen Puppy Embryos, and Declassified Flying Saucers

This week on We are Living in the Future:

It’s long been thought that there’s a limit on the efficiency of power plants, because electrons occasionally get stuck or confused and block the flow through the wires – like plaque in an artery, or a clog in a drainpipe. A new “thermoelectronic” device uses external magnets to influence the flow of electrons – promising an increase in efficiency without an increase in power. This device works with power techniques ranging from coal to solar, and has no moving parts, meaning it has long-term viability. For the first time, coal power plants may be able to convert more than half of the available energy into electricity, and solar power may work around 40% efficiency – nearly double the present standards.

Dogs represent one of the greatest examples of controlled evolution, but many lines of dog are in danger of being lost as certain breeds are chosen by owners more frequently. This week, Klondike, the first puppy born from a frozen embryo proves that dog genetic lines may be able to be preserved indefinitely. Dogs present a unique problem for breeders, as they are able to become pregnant only once or twice a year, and are not synchronized across breed lines. By creating an embryo and freezing it until the surrogate mother is able to accept a pregnancy, scientific breeders have made it possible to preserve genetic traits across various lines.

Imagine you’re responsible for unboxing declassified Government records and reporting them to the public. You come across a box marked “Project 1974 Final Development Summary Report 2 April – 30 May 1956″. Not the most interesting of names – but in the box are reports of the Government’s flying saucer project, called Avrocar. The flying saucer project wasn’t a complete secret – it was reported on by Popular Mechanics in the early 1960s – but the details of the project have now been made public for the first time. Though it was declassified in 2001, it has taken 11 years for the box to be opened and details released. The design has a jet engine in the center which draws air up and directs it over the saucer shape to the edges of the craft, where it enabled the craft to lift. Sadly, the design was unstable at heights greater than three feet – but technology designed for the saucer became standard on VTOL jets and the NASA space capsules. So flying saucers in the 1960s came not from outerspace – but from Canada. One of the prototypes is available to be seen at Wright Patterson Airforce Base in Dayton, Ohio.