TIME technology

Watch NASA Test These 3D-Printed Rocket Parts

3-D printers can bring rockets to space.

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If you thought the coolest application of a 3-D printer was creating a miniature model of yourself to show to your friends, then NASA has just proven you wrong.

Two 3-D printed rocket injectors were recently successfully tested by NASA at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. These powerful injectors mix liquid nitrogen and hydrogen to produce a combustion that can reach temperatures over 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit and generate over 20,000 pounds of thrust.

It sounds simple enough — the injectors’ design was entered into a 3-D printer’s computer, and the printer then built each part through a process known as selective laser melting.

“We wanted to go a step beyond just testing an injector and demonstrate how 3-D printing could revolutionize rocket designs,” said Chris Singer, director of Marshall’s Engineering Directorate.

With conventional manufacturing methods, the rocket injectors would require the creation and assembly of 163 individual pieces; with the 3-D printer, only 2 pieces were necessary. This unique method not only saved scientists and engineers time and money, it is also less likely to fail than the traditionally-built piece.

TIME Gadgets

Watch the Evolution of Apple’s iPhone in a Single GIF

Apple; Gif by Joseph C. Lin—TIME

From 2007 to 2014

It seems like ages since Steve Jobs first announced Apple’s first iPhone in 2007. At the time, the heavy, 4GB device seemed like a technology miracle, but today it looks just a little dated compared to the iPhone’s latest iteration — and who knows what it’ll look like compared to the iPhone 6, which is just around the corner.

TIME captured the evolution of the iPhone in just a few seconds.

TIME Food & Drink

Here’s How Ice Cream Will Look—and Taste—in the Future

Brace yourself for edible shells and 3-D printing.

As the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? Well, we’re pretty sure that doesn’t apply to ice cream. It’s already, by many accounts, the perfect food, so it certainly doesn’t need “fixing” per se, but we’re completely open to the idea that it could be made even better.

Here, a look at three current projects that are shaking up the ice cream world — and potentially altering the future of everybody’s favorite frozen treat.

  • Ice cream that’s been 3D printed

    When faced with an assignment to develop a new and innovative technology in 3D-printing, a group of MIT students decided to think a bit differently from their classmates.

    “Everyone else was printing composites and resins and none of that was very tasty,” says Kyle Hounsell, now a recent MIT graduate, who teamed with fellow students to think of some edible options for the project. Eventually, he and fellow students Donghyun Kim and Kristine Bunker decided they’d try to 3D-print ice cream — and it ended up working.

    The team took an ordinary off-the-shelf soft-serve ice cream machine and then attached it to a Solidoodle 3D printer.

    “The technology is called fused deposition modeling,” Hounsell explains. “Basically what you do is you put down the first layer of whatever you’re doing, be it plastic or ice cream or chocolate. You extrude your first layer from this nozzle — it’s sort of like if you had a hot glue gun and you put it down on a table and made a ring, and by the time you got around to the start, you’d move the head up a little bit and go around again. And the first ring you printed has solidified, so it’s more structurally stable, but when you go back around, you extrude new stuff which melts to it and becomes part of it.”

    That’s the process you’ll see in the video above. You might notice that the ice cream looks a bit runny, but that’s only because the team had to keep the machine’s door open to capture the video. To make sure the ice cream solidified, the students added a nozzle to sprays liquid nitrogen onto the freshly-printed layers.

    The next step, Hounsell says, is to file a patent and figure out what the future of 3D printed ice cream could hold.

    “Novelty would be a strong factor. I feel like you could just plop one of these down in a Target or something in a glass-walled freezer and sit there and watch,” he says. “Watching 3D printers work is mesmerizing. At least to me.”

  • Ice cream that’s made to order with liquid nitrogen

    A boy observes Smitten Ice Cream's Brrr machine in action. Toni Gauthier / Toni Bird Photography

    In the heart of San Francisco sits Smitten Ice Cream, where every batch of ice cream is made to order, on the spot, using a high-tech machine called Brrr. This apparatus, which took years to develop and patent, produces what Vogue called “arguably the freshest, if not the best, ice cream on earth.”

    The key ingredient? Liquid nitrogen.

    “The gist is that the faster you freeze ice cream, the smaller the ice crystals can be, and the smaller the ice crystals, the smoother the texture,” Smitten founder Robyn Sue Fisher says. “To freeze really fast, you freeze really cold. So liquid nitrogen, being negative 321 degrees Fahrenheit, really fits that bill.”

    Making ice cream this way means you can produce smooth, dense, tasty ice cream — and it also means you can cut out emulsifiers, preservatives and stabilizers, instead using fresh, local ingredients.

    “The whole impetus of me starting the company is just that I was getting kind of of grossed out by looking at the back of ice cream cartons and realizing how many ingredients were in the product that I couldn’t even pronounce,” Fisher says.

    Fisher admits that making ice cream with liquid nitrogen is nothing new — but other ice cream shops tend to do this with a basic kitchen mixer, and without a carefully engineered machine, it’s difficult to get the right texture every time. Plus, customers get to watch the machine in action as it churns their ice cream in a whirring, cloudy haze.

    For now, Smitten has four locations around the Bay Area. While Fisher doesn’t have plans to take over the world, if this ice cream is truly as delicious and fresh as it looks, you never know.

  • Ice cream served inside an edible shell

    WikiPearl ice cream balls WikiFoods

    These golf ball-sized ice cream spheres are designed to be easy to eat, but they’ve also got an eco-friendly purpose: eliminating wasteful food packaging. They’re called WikiPearls and they were developed by Harvard biomedical engineering professor David Edwards, who was inspired by foods like grapes and coconuts that essentially come with built-in packaging.

    But of course, this is still ice cream we’re talking about — so taste is a priority.

    “For a new food form to be really successful, it has to be really good and give benefits that people are looking for in food,” Edwards says. “So the packaging is a great thing but from a consumer point of view, it just needs to be really great.”

    The edible skins are made of natural food particles that are bound together with nutritive ions to form a soft skin that keeps the ice cream inside cold for several hours. You can throw them inside a Thermos and carry them with you throughout the day, popping them into your mouth when you need a snack. (Portion control, anyone?)

    For now, WikiPearls are sold at a little shop in Paris, but Edwards says they’ll soon be available in the U.S. at Cafe ArtScience opening in September in Cambridge, Mass. Flavors are fairly standard (mango ice cream with coconut skin, chocolate ice cream with hazelnut skin) but Edwards says some more eccentric flavors — like foie gras ice cream with an onion skin — are coming this fall.

    Frozen yogurt in WikiPearl form exists too, if you’re into that sort of thing. They’re a bit smaller — about the size of a grape — and can be found at a few Whole Foods locations around New England. (As we all know, though, frozen yogurt is great, but it can’t really replace the true star of the show.)

    While Edwards hopes that WikiPearls will one day be the new normal of ice cream, he’s also got plans to expand this technology into other culinary realms. He’s already created versions including cheese, fruits and vegetables — and while we’re not sure how receptive consumers will be to those, we do think the ice cream balls could be a hit.

TIME Companies

Apple Fails Again to Ban Sales of Samsung Phones

Apple Samsung Patent
A Samsung and Apple smartphone are displayed in London on Aug. 6, 2014 Peter Macdiarmid—Getty Images

The latest in the Apple-Samsung patent war

A U.S. judge on Wednesday rejected Apple’s bid to permanently ban sales of some Samsung phones that had recently been found to infringe Apple patents.

What Apple pitched as a “narrowly tailed ban” on some older Samsung models was denied by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, Calif., who had rejected Apple’s previous request to ban some U.S. Samsung sales in August of 2012, according to Bloomberg.

In its bid, Apple specifically identified certain features on nine of Samsung’s patent-infringing smartphones in order to give the South Korean firm a “sunset period” to alter those features, according to court documents.

But Apple’s latest court denial is perhaps its last as both parties have toned down their multiyear patent war. In late July, Apple dropped its appeal of the 2012 case while also announcing that its quarterly profits and smartphone sales had jumped up from the previous year’s, a suggestion that its iPhone sales went largely unaffected by any Samsung patent infringements. Most recently, both Apple and Samsung agreed earlier this month to drop patent disputes against each other outside the U.S.

TIME technology

SpaceX Delays Launch Days After Test Mishap

SpaceX
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket sits on a lauch pad on Oct. 7, 2012 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. SpaceX is delaying this week's Falcon 9 rocket launch by a day following an explosion of a test flight of its experimental Falcon 9R rocket. Joe Raedle—Getty Images

The company says it will review flight record details before the next test flight

SpaceX delayed the launch of a commercial communications satellite on Tuesday, days after an experimental rocket failed mid-flight.

The private space firm founded by Elon Musk was set to launch the AsiaSat 6 satellite on its Falcon 9 rocket early Tuesday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, but the launch was delayed 24 hours, the Los Angeles Times reports.

On Friday, a test flight of the Falcon 9R, an experimental reusable rocket, experienced an anomaly, SpaceX said in a statement. As a result, the flight was terminated–the rocket blew itself up.

No one was injured in the incident, and the company said that the experimental flight was “particularly complex.”

But SpaceX said at the time that it would review flight record details before the next test flight, and the LA Times reports that the space exploration company is taking extra time to review the case ahead of the AsiaSat 6 satellite launch.

[LA Times]

TIME

China’s Supersonic Submarine? Not Gonna Happen

Take your time, boys; you're not going anywhere fast
Take your time, boys; you're not going anywhere fast Mike Clarke—AFP/Getty Images

To hear Chinese military sources tell it, the country is on its way to developing a submarine that can travel 6,100 mph—which is why you should never listen to Chinese military sources

There are a whole lot of things that won’t be happening anytime soon. Pigs flying, for instance; that won’t happen. All of the raindrops becoming lemon drops and gumdrops; that won’t happen either. And despite what you have been reading practically everywhere today, no, China won’t be deploying a submarine capable of moving at 6,100 mph (9,800 k/h) and covering the distance from Shanghai to San Francisco in 100 minutes—at least not in anything remotely like the near future.

Let’s begin with the source of the story: engineer Li Fengchen, of the Harbin Institute of Technology, the project’s lead researcher. Mr. Li is surely an impeccably honest man and a very good engineer, but the Chinese government has not always covered itself in glory when it comes to candor and there’s no reason to believe they’d start with a program as sensitive as this.

“The idea that any Chinese research association would talk about its best ideas is ludicrous beyond words,” says physicist and naval weapons expert Norman Friedman, of the U.S. Naval Institute. “They simply don’t go public with this kind of project, though they do sometimes show off things that don’t exist.”

The bigger problem involves a couple of matters Friedman knows a thing or two about: physics and engineering. The technology that has caused all the buzz is something called supercavitation, and there’s nothing fanciful about it—it’s been around since the Cold War, though it’s been used only in torpedoes. Supercavitation involves agitating water in such a way that it forms a bubble of vapor completely surrounding the moving body, dramatically reducing friction, and dramatically increasing speed. Traditional propellors can’t be used to generate that speed, since they have to touch the water and all any part of the sub or torpedo touches is vapor. Instead, rocket engines provide the push, relying on the same action-reaction principle rockets use in space.

“It’s not a friction-free ride,” says Friedman, “but you do get some distance out of it and it can move at high speeds.”

But how much distance and how high a speed? There, it turns out, is the rub. The best-known supercavitating torpedo, the Russian Shkval—or squall—achieves a speed of around 200 knots (230 mph), according to Friedman, but it’s a short-range weapon, able to sprint only about 10,000 yards, since it must be stuffed with enough hardware both to churn water to vapor and run the rocket engines and still have enough room left over for an explosive charge. With all that, it can carry only a limited amount of fuel.

A submarine, Friedman estimates, could possibly stretch the range to 40 mi. (64 km). But as for somehow increasing the speed from 230 mph to 6,100 mph? Even the Chinese spokesfolks who are talking so freely don’t pretend to have an answer for that one.

Finally, there’s the problem of trying to point the sub where you want it to go. For both surface vessels and submersibles, that job is achieved by turning a rudder against the water, but poke a rudder into the water of a supercavitating vessel and you pop the bubble that surrounds the ship—not to mention snapping the rudder completely off when it suddenly encounters resistance. “Steering,” Friedman says, “wouldn’t be any fun.”

None of this is to suggest that these problems won’t be solved some day. But that’s true of almost any technical challenge you can name. Despite what China is saying, the submarine’s some day isn’t a soon day.

TIME Military

Watch the 100-Year History of Tear Gas in 2 Minutes

Banned in warfare, but used for crowd control at home.

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Tear gas, a noxious agent that causes tearing, vomiting and pain, was first used in combat by the French military during World War One 100 years ago. It was soon co-opted by the U.S. Chemical Warfare Service for use as a crowd control agent.

After being initially introduced as a replacement for poison gas after that substance was banned from battlefields, tear gas was soon being used used to quell large crowds in the 1920’s and 1930’s that gathered in the midst of food scarcity and economic uncertainty.

Its use continued throughout the 1960s, being used to corral anti-war protestors, most notably at the University of California, Berkeley. Despite now being banned from wartime use, tear gas is still in use for domestic crowd control, most recently seen during recent protests in Ferguson, Missouri.

TIME technology

WhatsApp Now Has 600 Million Monthly Users

Fackbook Acquires WhatsApp For $16 Billion
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

That's 100 million more than in April

Popular messaging service WhatsApp has reached 600 million monthly active users, according to the company’s CEO, Jan Koum.

WhatsApp was approaching the half-billion user mark when Facebook agreed to buy the company for $19 billion in February, and passed that figure in April.

WhatsApp is one of a variety of SMS alternatives that allow users to send mobile photos and messages to each other via the Internet. Line, a app popular in Asia, has 400 million users and Facebook’s own Messenger service has 200 million.

Facebook’s purchase of WhatsApp is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

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