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Flying Cars Edge Closer To Reality

By Daksha Morjaria

Flying cars have been in the works since 1946, when aeronautical engineer Ted Hall created two prototypes of the ConvAirCar. Unfortunately, a crash landing due to low fuel caused the hybrid vehicle’s manufacturer, Convair, to lose interest and shut down the venture within a year. While there have been numerous attempts since, none have gone beyond the experimental stage. That is about to change thanks to a slew of new and established companies that are determined to make this 70-year-old quest a reality.

On April 25, California-based start-up Kitty Hawk made headlines when it unveiled a video of its flying vehicle that will be available before the end of the year. The single-seater, propeller-powered Kitty Hawk Flyer is classified as an ultralight aircraft by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) and approved for recreational flying in “uncongested areas.” Though the jet-ski-like vehicle, which can only be flown over water, is not quite the futuristic flying commuter car one would have envisioned, Kitty Hawk says they have other models in the works.

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Scientists Propose Redefining Planets To Include Pluto And Over 100 Celestial Bodies

By Maitreyi Mantha

In 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU), which promotes and safeguards the science of astronomy, passed a resolution that classified all bodies (except satellites) in our solar system into three distinct categories – planets, dwarf planets, and Small Solar System Bodies. To qualify as a planet, the body had to orbit around the sun, have sufficient mass for its self-gravity to pull it into a round shape, and have cleared the neighborhood around its orbit. Since Pluto did not meet the third criterion, it was downgraded to a dwarf planet.

Now, a group of NASA scientists not only want to restore Pluto’s original status but also reclassify over 100 celestial bodies, including our moon, as planets. The team, led by John Hopkins researcher Kirby Runyon, believes that a planet should be defined by the intrinsic qualities of the celestial body itself, not the external surroundings like its orbit or other objects. They argue that any object in our solar system that hasn’t undergone nuclear fusion and has enough gravitational pull to maintain a round shape, should be called a planet. Under this new definition everything, except for stars, black holes, asteroids, and meteorites, would be considered a planet. This means the number of planets in our solar system would expand from the current eight to almost 110! Among them would be Pluto, our moon, and all newly discovered worlds that are currently dubbed exoplanets.

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Giggling Rats Provide Insights Into Why Humans Are Ticklish

By Shariqua Ahmed

For many of us, the mere thought of wiggling fingers approaching our rib cage or moving towards our underarms is enough to elicit squeals of laughter and giggles. However, while we all know that tickling makes us happy, Michael Brecht, a professor at Berlin’s Humboldt University, says it is “one of the most poorly understood forms of touch.”

Scientists do not know why tickling results in such joy, why certain body parts are more susceptible to the sensation than others, or why the best tickles occur at the hands of others. To solve the mystery, that even confounded Aristotle and Charles Darwin, the researcher and study co-author, Shimpei Ishiyama, solicited some help from rats.

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