The Return of Supersonic Flight?

When the Concorde was retired in 2003, our technological ambitions had been checked by practical concerns about noise, cost and fuel consumption. Today, engineers are working on new solutions. 

What's the Latest Development?


Researchers at MIT and the Japanese University Tohoku are working to rehabilitate supersonic flight, an event not seen since the Concorde was laid to rest in 2003. The new designs attempt to solve problems that contributed to the Concorde's retirement such as excessive noise, excessive fuel consumption and excessive ticket prices. A bi-plane designed by MIT, in which two sets of wings are stacked on top of one another, would cause the shockwaves of one set to cancel out the others'. The design would eliminate the loud sonic boom which limited supersonic flights to trans-oceanic trajectories.

What's the Big Idea?

If supersonic flight is to make a comeback, it will need to consume less fuel, both for environmental reasons and to make ticket prices affordable. That means making a more aerodynamic craft to reduce drag. Engineers are working to make the surface of the craft as smooth as possible, perhaps by using ceramic tile, and experimenting with wing shapes. The MIT team has found a wing shape that could fly at supersonic speeds with half the drag of the Concorde, decreasing fuel consumption and therefore ticket prices. But engineers estimate another 15 years is necessary to make a commercially-viable craft. 

Photo credit: MIT News

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Dead – yes, dead – tardigrade found beneath Antarctica

A completely unexpected discovery beneath the ice.

(Goldstein Lab/Wkikpedia/Tigerspaws/Big Think)
Surprising Science
  • Scientists find remains of a tardigrade and crustaceans in a deep, frozen Antarctic lake.
  • The creatures' origin is unknown, and further study is ongoing.
  • Biology speaks up about Antarctica's history.
Keep reading Show less

If you want to spot a narcissist, look at the eyebrows

Bushier eyebrows are associated with higher levels of narcissism, according to new research.

Big Think illustration / Actor Peter Gallagher attends the 24th and final 'A Night at Sardi's' to benefit the Alzheimer's Association at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on March 9, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
popular
  • Science has provided an excellent clue for identifying the narcissists among us.
  • Eyebrows are crucial to recognizing identities.
  • The study provides insight into how we process faces and our latent ability to detect toxic people.
Keep reading Show less

Why are women more religious than men? Because men are more willing to take risks.

It's one factor that can help explain the religiosity gap.

Photo credit: Alina Strong on Unsplash
Culture & Religion
  • Sociologists have long observed a gap between the religiosity of men and women.
  • A recent study used data from several national surveys to compare religiosity, risk-taking preferences and demographic information among more than 20,000 American adolescents.
  • The results suggest that risk-taking preferences might partly explain the gender differences in religiosity.
Keep reading Show less