Space tech meets aviation: The hypersonic revolution

(CNN)London to Melbourne in 90 minutes? Paris to San Francisco in under an hour?

That’s travel at 25 times the speed of sound — or barely enough time to take in an in-flight movie.
Few areas of aviation generate wilder predictions than hypersonic flight — but a team in Germany might just have cracked it.
Hypersonic means speeds of Mach 5 or over, or more than five times the speed of sound. Supersonic is Mach 1, or the speed of sound.
Since the withdrawal of the Concorde in 2003, commercial aviation has remained purely subsonic, but that could change in the coming decades.
Take new aircraft concepts like the Japanese HYTEX, capable of speeds of Mach 5, or the European Lapcat-II, expected to reach Mach 8.
Then there’s the nascent space tourism industry, with companies such as Virgin Galactic and XCOR Aerospace hoping to take a select few on leisure trips to the edge of space.
Researchers at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) are taking their own approach.
A team has applied space technology principles to propose what is possibly the world’s most advanced hypersonic airliner concept to date.

The SpaceLiner

The result of 10 years of ongoing research by the Space Launcher Systems Analysis (SART) department at the Institute of Space Systems in Bremen, the SpaceLiner is a revolutionary hypersonic spaceplane concept capable of flying some 50 passengers across the globe at speeds of up to 25 times the speed of sound.
It’s based on a two-stage concept, not unlike the Space Shuttle, where both the booster and passenger stages start in an upright configuration.
Propelled by 11 rocket engines during launch (nine on the booster stage and two on the passenger stage) the system accelerates into the mesosphere using traditional cryogenic rocket propulsion.
Once the booster stage is empty, the smaller passenger vehicle separates from the booster stage and continues accelerating, flying autonomously, just like an aircraft — except that it does so while reaching astonishing speed of up to Mach 25.
After reaching a maximum altitude of about 80 kilometers, the passenger stage commences a gliding descent towards its destination.
Not only is the SpaceLiner concept incredibly fast, it’s also environmentally friendly.
It uses liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen (LOX/LH2) propellants so only water vapour is produced.
Most of the flight processes will be fully automated, but there would still be two pilots to monitor all onboard and flight procedures — and to provide reassurance to passengers.

Re-usability is key




The hypersonic flight market

Even if costs can be brought down, hypersonic flight is likely to remain a premium product, at least at the beginning.
The number of potential routes flown by the SpaceLiner would be limited to intercontinental distances of more than 9,000 kilometers, where the time-saving would be most beneficial.
Potential routes could include Australia to Europe, as well as linking destinations in the Far East, Europe, America’s West Coast and the Trans-Pacific market.
The SpaceLiner would need space ports to be strategically located close to main population centers and business hubs in order to capture business traffic, while at the same time being sufficiently removed from densely populated areas in order to minimize noise issues during take-off.
Coastal locations are the most desirable so that the starting phase can occur over water.
SART has already identified several suitable launch sites in Europe, Australia and the U.S. that meet these criteria, with the Netherlands’ north coast being a particular favorite.

It will take some time to fly hypersonic

According to SART’s own estimates, SpaceLiner flights are still a few decades away, maybe as much as 30 years.
If it’s ever to become a reality, the SpaceLiner will need the involvement of the aerospace industry as well as investors with deep pockets.
Dr. Trivailo estimates that the SpaceLiner would require an initial investment of 28 to 30 billion euros ($30 to 32 billion) to make it to the prototype stage.
But there’s a lot more to the SpaceLiner than flying passengers faster across continents.
By designing a fully reusable space system for regular passenger traffic, SART researchers hope that their work will make space travel more cost-effective.
If their space hardware went into serial production, costs might be brought down and space travel would be more accessible to more people.
Don’t pack your suitcase just yet, but affordable space tourism could be that little bit closer to reality.

Read more:

Regina King On The ‘Fascinating’ Beauty Of Black Women’s Hair by Jemma

Regina King believes that the many different textures and styles of black women’s hair is truly phenomenal. 

The Emmy Award-winning actress made this declaration in the latest episode of “The Hair Tales,” an online show where successful black women in Hollywood share their hair stories. 

The show was created by cultural critic Michaela Angela Davis who believes there is a story in every curl, coil and kink — so she invited King to share her own story in the show’s final episode in the series. Watch it below:

In the video, which has previously featured stars like Mara Brock Akil and Tasha Smith, King discusses her breakout role on the NBC show “227.” She said joining the sitcom in the late ’80s marked the first time she applied a relaxer to her hair to help make it straight. 

“When I started ‘227’ is when I got my first relaxer. It burned,” King admitted. “My scalp didn’t like me liking the relaxer.” 

King reflects on that moment and how getting a relaxer at such a young age was part of a popular trend among black women, at the time. She went on to question the cultural influences imposed on her and to talk about how her roles in the 1991 cult classic “Boyz In The Hood” and the 1993 film “Poetic Justice” also marked defining moments for her and her hair journey. King starred in both films as separate characters who rocked beautiful brown braids. 

“[They] represented so many girls I knew in high school,” King said. “The braids represented that regular beautiful black girl.”  

King credits black women for creating styles in ways she says has set the bar high for all women of all races. Through it all, she says hair among women, regardless of style, will always hold special meaning. 

“It all starts with your hair,” King said. “A lot of your confidence lies in your tresses.” 

Davis said the video was inspired by King’s role as Shalika in “Boyz In The Hood” and it is dedicated to every “’regular beautiful black girl’ that ever was and always will be,” she told The Huffington Post.

To mark the closing episode of her premiere series, Davis also wanted to celebrate King for her outstanding portrayals over the years and highlight the power she believes King’s work represents. 

“For decades, Regina has been bringing black girl realness to a Hollywood hostile to that notion,” Davis said. “From a precocious little girl on the block, to a ballers wife, to a complex American Muslim, we’ve seen her bring an easy beauty and honesty to every rich and ‘regular’ character she’s ever embodied.”

“We trust her, completely,” Davis added. “She is that beautiful black girl we all know. She is a great American actress.”


Read more:

This Photo Series Is Empowering Black Women To Embrace Their Bodies

A new photo series is reclaiming the beauty of the black female body.

“Body Noire, A Celebration Of Black Female Bodies” is the brainchild of Nigerian-American multimedia journalist Abi Ishola. In October 2015, Ishola founded the website, months after launching a photo series in direct response to the New York Times piece which described actress Viola Davis as not “classically beautiful.”

On Beyond Classically Beautiful, Ishola and her team create visual content to challenge society’s beauty standards while shining a spotlight on the undeniable beauty of black women.

The site’s latest project, “Body Noire,” features striking black-and-white portraits that focus on the diverse physiques of everyday black women. Ishola says the inspiration for the series came during Serena Williams’ domination of female tennis in 2015. 

“As she embarked on yet another grand slam somehow her physique became the topic on social media and in mainstream publications,” Ishola told The Huffington Post.

“At a time when the world should have been celebrating her for her talent, she was being body shamed for her natural body type. We wanted to do something to honor black women, once again, since that is our main objective.”

The result, a powerful photo series featuring women of all sizes and shapes, unapologetically glorifying the power, strength and beauty of their bodies. The stunning photos were taken by photographer Kunle Ayodeji (who also happens to be Ishola’s husband), accompanied by candid written confessionals by several women sharing their personal “body stories” and how they’ve come to love their bodies. 

Kunle Ayodeji
“Im at my heaviest, but Ive never loved myself and been more confident than now! When you have a light shining so bright within you, its hard for it to not be shining on the surface.” -Roseline Lawrence, Artist

“I think it’s very important to shine the light on black women when it comes to body acceptance because black women have been somewhat left out of the mainstream conversation,” Ishola says.  

“Black women are constantly held under a microscope when it comes to the way we look, so it only makes sense to refocus the idea of body positivity on black women in particular.” 

Kunle Ayodeji
“[As a] black woman in a classical ballet world, Ive been told my natural hair gives me an aggressive appearance and have been asked to leave auditions or Ive been flat out told hip hop is not offered when Ive arrived in ballet attire.” -Tyde-Courtney Edwards, Ballerina

In an Editor’s Note accompanying the series, Ishola honestly opens up about her own “love-and-hate” relationship with her body, her struggles with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and the way in which having her daughter helped her reconcile many of her body issues. Her own personal journey of self-acceptance ultimately was one of several catalysts that led to this project, which aims to encourage black women to reclaim and redefine the narratives around their own bodies. 

Her hope is for the women who see the “Body Noire” project to “feel represented, loved and celebrated.”

“There’s no greater celebration than the ones we do for each other.  That is the Beyond Classically Beautiful mission, which I feel has become my life’s purpose.”

See the entire “Body Noire, A Celebration Of Black Female Bodies” series here


Read more:

Prince: his 10 greatest songs from Head to Cream (and Purple Rain in between) by Jemma

Truthfully, you could have any number of Prince top 10s. This is just one

Choosing the 10 best songs by the most ludicrously prolific and riotously diverse artist of the rocknroll era seems on the face to it to be flatly absurd. Where would you start? How could you possibly stop?

Even the most demanding of selectors could compile a suite of 10 worldbeaters from Princes pre-fame dirty mac years alone, or from songs written by Prince and made famous by other artists not only Nothing Compares 2 U but also the Bangles Manic Monday and Chaka Khans I Feel For You. Or why not the 1999 to Batman Imperial period of MTV and effortless global hits? Or B-sides, album cuts, and songs he never even released? And what about the bewildering post-Emancipation years when Prince began to write and record at a rate no record label and few fans could even keep up with? He was protean, a world unto himself, seemingly containing multitudes. For it all to end so early seems grossly unjust.

Lets try anyway. Here is one version of 10 Best Prince songs, a tiny snapshot of that vast world and necessarily tilted towards the familiar. The best Prince song of all? It was the one he started playing in 1965 when he was seven years old, and which has now ended.

Head (1980)

Just your everyday story of an impromptu oral encounter with a bride-to-be who ends up marrying Prince in the morning instead. Lisa Coleman of Wendy & Lisa provides the hot-and-bothered lady vocals, but really its all about the hilariously lascivious keyboard squiggles and the irresistible microfunk post-disco arrangement, of which Daft Punk were clearly avid students. Almost the archetypal early Prince song: dirty, funny, groovy, ridiculous, utterly life-enhancing.

Controversy (1981)

By the time of his third album, Prince had announced himself as something both unprecedented in pop the sex-drenched, post-male, polymorphous Imp of the Perverse and weirdly familiar; a new, lubricious Little Richard. Meanwhile his new wave-funk hybrid Minneapolis sound was beginning to set the agenda of black music rather than following it. The sizzling disco of this title track, with its squelching Funkadelic electronics and cheeky, childlike arpeggios, carries the first real Prince manifesto of self: Am I black or white? Am I straight or gay? Sex, God, the funk and the filth: its all here, right in time to outrage the Reagan era.

Pop Life (1985)

Received wisdom has it that the dreamlike Around the World in a Day album was Princes first significant wobble. But come on. Its got Raspberry Beret and The Ladder and this delicious, swaying slo-mo groover, which connects the mundanities of rent and crappy apartments and disappointing love lives (who says the Patron Saint of Fornication couldnt empathise with earthly woes?) to a Warholian ideal of transformation through the titular Pop Life. Recorded before Purple Rain was completed yet sonically months and years ahead, its evidence of Princes restless spirit but primarily a pop earworm of showstopping beauty.

Erotic City (1984)

Prince could make sex feel like the most innocent of playtimes and its absence the most soul-breaking of ordeals. The B-side to Lets Go Crazy was inspired by seeing Parliament-Funkadelic in Los Angeles in 1983, and this gently debauched bumpngrinder manages to present the conjugal act as a purifying communion without losing a scrap of the necessary dirtiness. The thwacking treated drums of 1999-era Prince are present and correct as he rides up and down his register, playing male, female and all points between. A gay club favourite, available in 3.55 and 7.24 versions to suit your staying power.

Purple Rain (1984)

The Prince epic, a vast existential meditation on the nature of longing and guilt where a formally incomprehensible image what exactly is this purple rain and where is it coming from? becomes a metaphor for Princes mental universe. The arrangement is stately, merging devotional gospel with rock and even country tropes, and the vocal simply spine-chilling (that Honey I know I know I know ). That such a flat-out weird piece of music could become such a global hit, and would set in stone a persona that would define Prince for the rest of his life, says much about the intensity of Prince and the Revolutions performance; incredibly, they recorded it live. In life and art Prince created his own world. This is its national anthem.

Prince performs Purple Rain live at the Superbowl in 2007

Sometimes It Snows in April (1986)

The nearest thing in the Prince catalogue to a Bruce Springsteen song, this closer to the restitutory Parade album eulogises a dead friend called Tracy in a stark and emotionally naked performance. The subject is actually the fictional Christopher Tracy from Princes incomprehensible movie Under the Cherry Moon, but the sentiment is raw and real and its unclear if Prince is singing as himself, as a man or as a woman. It is probable that fans will be turning to this song right now: Sometimes I wish life was never ending / and all good things they say never last.

Kiss (1986)

Though a prolific writer for others, Princes persona was so singular and his musical powers so versatile that its hard to imagine anyone else singing most of the songs he reserved for himself. Kiss, however, is Princes one unimpeachable standard, a throwaway demo that became a planet-sized hit that anyone can sing even if they tend to miss the point of the lyrics sweet, funny, randy sex comedy. In the best-in-class video, a shirtless Prince puts the Pan in pansexual by gyrating around a clearly-not-interested Wendy Melvoin (punchline delivered years later: she was a lesbian all along!). It all underscores a gentle humour perhaps missing in Sir Tom Jones rutting prize bull version.

Sign O the Times (1987)

The Whats Goin On of the 1980s, an apocalyptic vision that reaches from the TV news to the Aids clinics to the gang-banging city corners to an exploding shuttle on the fringes of space. Having created one sound the gleaming edifice of Minneapolis super-synth soul Prince blows it up to create yet another for his best album, a minimalist, hallucinatory world of echoes where images of a panicking world crowd in. The answer? Love and sex, of course. This is Prince, after all. Get married, have a baby, call him Nate (if its a boy) and you might live 2 see the dawn.

If I Was Your Girlfriend (1987)

The most famous of Princes sonic signatures those slablike yet somehow subtle electronic drums, the understated keyboards, the tiny vocal scats and embellishments that transform everything reaches its apogee on this beseeching role-reversal psychodrama. Prince pitches his voice up until he really is your girlfriend. An unsettling wow effect of a warped record is artificially introduced, years before Portishead, to heighten the dream-state. And it all comes together on that devastating moment when he loses control and screams could we just hang out could we go to a movie and CRYYYYYYYY together? All your genderqueer thought experiment requirements are here.

Cream (1991)

You got the horn so why dont you blow it? As adept as Kenneth Williams with a winning double entendre, Prince enters his post-Imperial years when a hit was a delightful surprise rather than a matter of course with this engagingly mucky, Bolanesque swaggerer. A showcase for the moans, groans, whimpers and squeals of Princes overtly priapic guitar, its also surprisingly warm of spirit, restating the core Prince belief that sex heals everything and everyone. His final US No 1, Prince is reputed to have written it while looking at the sexiest thing he could imagine: himself, in a mirror.

Read more:

The Jungle Book review spectacular revival of Disney’s family favorite – by Charlie

Hyperreal digital animation meets old-fashioned storytelling in this faithful remake, which loses the songs but brings new, ingenious twists on the original

What on earth is the point of remaking Walt Disneys great and possibly greatest masterpiece, the glorious animated musical from 1967, based on Kiplings tales, all about the man cub Mowgli, brought up by wolves in the Indian jungle famously the last film to get Disneys personal touch? A remake which furthermore leaves old-fashioned animation behind, departing for the live-action uncanny valley of hyperreal CGI, which heretically loses most of the songs and which also abandons the originals final, unforgettably exotic glimpse of a real-life human girl?

The Jungle Book: the trailer video

Read more: