Tesla Roadster

Tesla Roadster

Elon Musk is the owner of the two companies Tesla and SpaceX and in February 2018, he elaborately joined the two. SpaceX have developed a rocket called The Falcon Heavy, and during the test flight, Elon decided to launch his own personal Tesla Roadster as the test load, complete with a human scale mannequin wearing a space suit named "Starman" after the David Bowie hit song. The speakers, despite being able to omit sound in space, have Bowie's "Space Oddity" on loop, there is a copy of Douglas Adams' "A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" in the glovebox, referenced with a towel and a sign reading "Don't Panic!" amongst other objects on board.

Traditionally, the test load for rocket launches comprises of concrete or steel blocks so that engineers can test that a rocket can bear the weight needed for launching satellites or objects that are required in space. In March 2017, Musk stated that he would launch "the silliest thing we can imagine", later announcing that he would launch his own personal roadster which required confirmation due to a skeptical audience. As a result, the Tesla Roadster became the first consumer car sent into space.

The Falcon Heavy test flight took place on the 6th January 2018 at 20:45 UTC. The mission was a success, which concluded that the Falcon Heavy was the most powerful rocket in operation and can lift twice the capacity of the NASA space shuttle launch system. Musk had downplayed the expectations of success in a conference, stating that "There's a real good chance the vehicle won't make it to orbit ... I hope it makes it far enough away from the pad that it does not cause pad damage. I would consider even that a win, to be honest." It was successfully launched with enough velocity to enter an orbit around the sun, crossing the orbit of Mars while sending a video back to earth during the early stages of the flight, becoming the second most watched livestream on YouTube.

The Falcon Heavy was launched in a reusable configuration which was designed to recover the central core and the side boosters of the rocket. The side boosters had been previously used on a CRS-9 mission in July 2016 and the Thaicom 8 Launch in May earlier that year.

Something that shocked engineers was the returning of the side boosters to landing zones 1 and 2 at Cape Canaveral. Video footage of the landing not only shows this happening successfully, but happening with pinpoint synchronisation. While this was the intention, due to complex engineering, mathematics and natural factors, seldom is it possible to make it so accurate. What wasn't quite as successful was the recovery of the landing of the central core which was due to take place on an autonomous spaceport drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean. The booster landed in the water about 100m from the ship, and was not successfully recovered. Aside from the landing of the centre core, every other objective was a success.

The purpose of launching the Tesla Roadster as a payload was to demonstrate that Falcon Heavy was capable of sending a heavy payload as far as the orbit of Mars. Some people consider the Tesla Roadster to be space debris, criticising Musk's decision to send his own car into space, while others see it as a clever piece of advertising or even call it art. While the video is no longer streaming, you can track the location of the Tesla Roadster using the website whereisroadster.com . It is not expected to pass near the Earth until 2091.

Whether or not you consider the placing of Musk's Tesla Roadster in space as a form of vandalism, advertising, or art, this huge step in space technology proves that we are venturing further into the depths of the universe and becoming more confident with complex technology. The car will make a relatively random orbit, pushed further or closer from it's original trajectory by the gravity of passing planets, until it is either recovered or enters the atmosphere of a planet and burns up. If it happens to be encountered by other life before then, there is a message on the vehicle's circuit board reading "made by humans" to inform extra-terrestrial life of the origins of the strange satellite.

Guitar Technology

Guitar Technology

While there is a lot of exciting technology in the musical world, which is dominating the electronic music scene, the rock and guitar led music genres tend to stick to traditional techniques as so advancements and developments in technology have been somewhat slower. That being said, there are still a few gizmos and gadgets out there which are sure to passionate and talented guitar players, some as simple as a well placed and crafted piece of metal. Here are a few developments in the world of guitars, from digital guitars and midi controllers, to quirky capos.

Passerelle Bridge - developed by creative and original guitarist Kaki King and Luthier Rachel Rosenkrantz, this simple but innovative piece of equipment quickly transforms your humble six string guitar into an entirely new twelve stringed instrument, reminiscent of a Japanese Koto. By placing the bridge over the sixteenth fret, each string will be divided into two desperate tones, a fifth apart from each other. Potential tunings are endless, and with strong pentatonic possibilities, you will find yourself improvising and composing in an entirely new way.

Spider and Harmonic capos - the capo is a basic piece of equipment at best, but recent developments have added some creative and ingenious features to this component that can be found in almost every players bag. The Spider Capo allows players to select which strings are affected by the capo, which opens up a world of possibilities using open strings and drones and even the possibility to have two or more Spider Capos to create extra complex open string arrangements. Before it was inducted, partial capos partially did the job, but the Spider Capo takes it one step further. Another slightly newer invention is the Harmonic capo, which has the same effect as gently touching the string with your finger at certain to create a high pitched noise. While limited in it's usage, it, like the Passerelle, allows users to play with entirely new soundscapes.

Guitar snare - developed by Schlagwerk in Germany, this small addition to your acoustic guitar allows the player to experiment more with percussive sounds than were previously possible with just the body of the guitar. The adhesive has been carefully considered so that it holds the snare strongly against the body, is easily removed so the snare can be moved around, and leaves no residue on a lacquered surface. Percussive guitar is not a new idea, but having sounds more reminiscent of a standard drum kit certain.y adds more drive to your performance.

Autotuners - there are several of these available on the market in various shapes, sizes and functionalities, but one in particular, the Roadie Tuner, is a clever piece of technology designed to make the life of a guitarist a little easier. This functions through a smartphone application which detects what pitch each string is emitting before transmitting this data wireless to a small handheld device that will automatically adjust the tuning pegs on the head of the guitar until the note is pitch perfect. In quiet situations, it is a very quick and effective tool, but sometimes struggles in loud spaces. The application allows guitarists to customise tunings and so they are not forever anchored in the EADGBE standard setup.

Wi-Fi enabled guitar jacks - what started life as a humble cable has been developed into an intelligent little piece of equipment. Wireless guitar cables are no new invention, but by creating a wireless connection through wifi, not only can users connect their guitar to their amplification setup, but also a computer or to a smartphone. Using this concept, applications can be developed to add effects to the guitar sound through a smartphone instead of using traditional pedals, and recording can be a whole lot easier without the need for a physical interface.

Wireless MIDI controllers - MIDI controllers have been used with guitars for a while, with notable guitarists like Matt Bellamy of Muse boosting their popularity. The recent development of the ACPAD which started through a kickstarter campaign essentially places a whole orchestra within reach of your fingers while you play your guitar. For those guitarists who are struggling to find bandmasters and want more open possibilities than a loop-station, this can be an elegant solution with unlimited potential for new ideas and sounds.

Radio in the digital age

Radio in the digital age

From Guglielmo Marconi's first transatlantic transmission in 1902 to the DAB radio and live internet streaming that we use today, the use of entertainment radio has developed and somewhat changed meaning over the years. After surviving the introduction of television, satellite networks and music streaming, the entertainment platform still exists.

With the invention and introduction of digital media, radio stations have become so much more than an analogue audio platforms. For starters, the use of DAB and online streaming now allow stations to transmit their material abroad and all over the world. This is particularly good for gaining an international audience and for expats living abroad who want to listen to radio shows in their own language, and can also help to spread knowledge of foreign cultures in a more connected world. Radio stations are often connected to YouTube and Facebook which create an extra dimension for the broadcasters; visual. Cloud storage systems allow users to access past radio shows on demand and to listen at their own convenience.

Radio stations are also becoming branding techniques. If you take the example of Australia's Triple J station which is popular among underground and unsigned artists, the company is not only a broadcasting station but also incorporates festival hosting and also an online music sharing platform, amongst other social media options. Triple J have a huge following throughout Australia and even overseas, and by allowing users to upload their own music to the Triple J website, it has made radio even more accessible for aspiring artists.

Radio stations have had to heavily adapt to changing demand. In a world where it is so quick and easy to type a song name into YouTube, or to find new music through Spotify's discover weekly playlists, radio broadcasters have still managed to maintain a steady audience through a touch of familiarity. Car users are among the largest consumers of radio entertainment, where radio has the advantage over streaming services for providing information like local traffic and weather reports, as well as music. Many new cars are being designed with inbuilt DAB radio sets, showing that the platform is still standing strong.

Podcasting and online streaming have blurred the boundaries between radio and listening to private music collections. Radio is becoming more interactive through online platforms, but linear scheduling still defines it as radio. Online music services like Spotify and Deezer create playlists and can randomly play music based on various parameters, much like a radio station. Queueing up videos on YouTube could also be argued as a vague form of radio-like consumption. Despite this, traditional linear programming continues to be consumed, and new platforms seem to work alongside traditional radio rather than to replace it, allowing radio broadcasters to take their content further and in ways they never could before.

The future of radio is, as anything, somewhat uncertain, but we can expect to see a lot more personalisation and automation integrated into our music services. We will most likely still require a human element of music selection through DJs as, while algorithms can do so much, music is such a personal thing that AI technology cannot grasp the full gravity of emotion that comes with each song that a human can, and often the enthusiastic voices that speak to us through our speakers to introduce the music are half of the reason we listen to a radio show. Radio's are likely to become more visually appealing and touch screen friendly and to include more on demand features as younger generations are not used to tuning into a television or a radio at a particular time for a show, but to watch or listen to something when it is convenient for them.

That being said, the humble idea of radio is fully ingrained into our existence and not likely to go away any time soon. We may have to redefine the meaning of the word and the values that come with traditional broadcasting, but there will always be a demand for music, news, interviews and entertainment. Digital platforms will continue to shape how we receive this, but we will continue to receive this none the less.

Smartphones and Airports

Smartphones and Airports

With 98% of all airline passengers carrying a mobile phone when they travel, the demand for a more streamlined airport experience as a result of smartphone technology is always on the rise. Airports are just as eager to push you through the security process as quickly and efficiently as possible, and the amount of time your smartphone can save you is incredible.

It is no secret that you can check in to your flight through airline smartphone applications or from your personal computer a few days before your flight. Some airlines, such as Ryanair, require you to do this to avoid a large additional fee. It is easy to understand why, as by automating the service, less staff are required on the check-in counter, and so the airline saves money on labour fees. Other airlines, such as Lufthansa, provide you with either option, but seasoned travellers will know that they can save considerable amounts of time by skipping the check-in line. By downloading the airline app to your smartphone, you will also most likely be able to download your boarding pass as an electronic document to your smartphone, reducing paper waste and reducing the amount of vital things you can potentially lose as you navigate the airport.

What this means, is that if you just have a small piece of hand luggage, after arriving at the airport, you can skip check-in and luggage drop and head directly to security. If you do have luggage to check in, this is also often automated. Self-serve stations allow you to print out your own luggage tags and drop off points automatically weigh your luggage as while you make an electronic declaration that your luggage is safe. The need for human staff in airports is quickly diminishing as technology becomes smarter.

Airline applications are always developing and, alongside checking into your flights, you can often upgrade your flight class, choose your seats, track your flights for delays, hire cars, check out hotel deals at your destination, and even reserve parking spots at the airport, depending on which app and airline you are using. More universal applications are also available such as Tripit, which combs your emails for booking confirmations and puts all of your flight information, tickets and passes into one place, and GateGuru which provides you with airport maps, arrival and departure times, restaurants at the airport and waiting times in security lines. Google has a similar application built into many smartphones which also provides travel times to and from the airports, traffic updates, and weather reports, all in the palm of your hand.

Another way in which smartphones are speeding up the journey to the other side of security is often active, but a little more hidden than through intelligent applications. Airports are often tracking the locations of smartphones to find out how many people are in queues at security to provide estimations on how long you will be waiting to pass the checkpoint. This provides vital data online and in the terminal to passengers so they know how much time they need to comfortably make their flight on time. This technology is also used in immigration halls so that passengers know how long it will take to cross the border, and airports know where to dispatch more staff to when the demand for more help is high.

Other airports use this technology to track how long people spend in parking lots, walking routes, entrances and exits and provides airports with early warnings about congestion points and can really improve the flow of passengers through the terminal. Smartphone tracking works as each mobile device emits a MAC address which is not linked to any individual user data, meaning no personal information is revealed and aligns the process of smartphone tracking with EU data privacy laws.

Aside from intelligent applications, airport navigation, passenger streamlining, check-in and electronic passes, smartphones can also provide an endless world of entertainment as you wait for your plane in the departure hall. Smartphones are brilliant tools to increase your comfort and to reduce the time you spend at the airport, meaning you have a few more minutes of precious vacation and less time waiting for your flight.