Ced Kurtz's TechMan Texts: SpaceX ushers in new age of space flight

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Welcome to the dawn of commercial space flight.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX has just posted video of a successful launch of its re-usable rocket concept, according to SlashGear. The shuttle is shown taking off, rising to 250 meters, then landing right next to the launch pad. In a second test, SpaceX said the first stage of a rocket that docked with the International Space Station over the weekend successfully test-fired its boosters in a way that will allow it to land in the ocean. Reusable rockets would go a long way to making space flight a business.

Power over distance. According to a news release, a Korean team has made an advance in wireless power transfer. Chun T. Rim, a professor of nuclear and quantum engineering at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, and his team last week demonstrated a great improvement in the distance that electric power can travel wirelessly, up to five meters. In 2007, scientists used a magnetic field to transfer energy for a distance of 2.1 meters. What a boon wireless electric power would be.

Cord-cutters grow. A new report from Experian Marketing Services says more people are dropping cable or satellite and instead watching video online. The number of cord-cutters, which Experian considers people with high-speed Internet who’ve either never subscribed to or stopped subscribing to cable or satellite, has risen from 5.1 million homes to 7.6 million homes, or 44 percent, in three years.

Wearing computers wears out. The tech pundits have been saying that wearable computers are the next big thing. But Nike begs to differ. Cnet.com reported that Nike is getting ready to jettison its wearable-hardware products, including the FuelBand fitness tracker and the Nike+ SportWatch. The company informed members of the 70-person hardware team — part of its larger, technology-focused Digital Sport division comprised of about 200 people — of the job cuts last week, Cnet reports.

Floating for free. Japanese rail operator JR Tokai said it would not charge the U.S. to license its proprietary “maglev” technology, which allows trains to hover about 4 inches above tracks and travel at speeds of 310 mph, according to Nikkei. It is hoping the U.S. will use its train for a proposed high-speed rail line between Washington D.C. and Baltimore.

A phone in pieces. Google held its first-ever developer conference for Project Ara, a mission to make a modular smartphone. It’d be the last phone you ever needed to buy, because you’d be able to swap out everything from the camera to the display to the battery, in order to always have the exact phone you want, according to TheVerge.com. 

Stick it to them. A team of University of Massachusetts Amherst inventors described a new, more versatile version of their invention, Geckskin, that can adhere strongly to a wider range of surfaces yet releases easily, like a gecko's feet. They have expanded their design theory to allow Geckskin to adhere to surfaces found in most homes such as drywall and wood, Phys.org reports.

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