Five Transportation Innovations That Will Save You Time and Money

There are few in this world who can say they've never sat, solemnly, in some sort of traffic. This New York Times article reported that the average American commuter spends a whopping 38 hours per year in it. Money, in addition to good spirits, is lost as time is spent idle in the car or bus. Thankfully, help is on the way.


Complied here are new forms of transit that will likely become institutions in the near future. 

1. Maglev Trains The main difference between traditional style trains most commonly used today and maglev ones is that the latter has no wheels. These locomotives levitate. The tracks they run on are magnetized. The trains use the force this creates to propel themselves upward and forward at high speeds. Running these engines requires the consumption of only a small amount of fuel. Thus, in addition to being faster than traditional style locomotives, these ones are more eco-friendly and less costly to operate. One challenge associated with instituting maglev trains is that there is a large start-up cost. Nevertheless, Maglev trains are already in operation in places like Germany and China, perhaps becoming the norm of rail travel by 2030. Learn more at Discovery News.

2. Bike Share Programs Bike share programs are set up like this: many stations are situated throughout a particular municipality and people pay a small fee at these stations and then are allowed to take a bike and ride it to another station. This is a helpful tool in city environments, where many times, due to traffic, it takes a shorter time to just bike to a destination rather than drive. Since bikes emit no harmful emissions, riding is an eco-friendly method of transportation. It is even healthy, and not to mention inexpensive. One obvious downside to biking is that it is not a realistic mode of transportation when going longer distances. Bike share programs already exist in many places throughout the United States and Europe. A highly anticipated pilot program will be launched this summer in New York City. Read more at USA Today.

3. Electric Cars For environmentalists, money-savers, and individuals, the electric car is a good solution to the transportation crisis at hand. These automobiles just need to be plugged in to the appropriate outlet and then are good to go. The cars do almost no harm to the environment and allow people to pass on paying for expensive gas. Despite all the advantages it presents, there is one major drawback to the electric car. This is that traffic is still an issue with it. Still, such automobiles are operated today and growing more and more popular. One study published by IDC Energy Insights stated that by 2015 there will be three million on the road. Read more at Buisnessweek.

4. Satellite-Based Air Traffic Control Systems  Most air traffic control systems today are ground-based. They utilize technology dating all the way back to the 1960s. This makes them inefficient in various different ways. With satellite-based systems air traffic controllers can do their job with much greater proficiency. The name of the United States initiative to implement this new system at a number of the country's airports is called NextGen. The main challenge at hand is that it takes many years and a lot of money. Nevertheless, it is expected that by 2020 most air traffic control systems in America will be satellite-based. Read more at Time.

5. Smart Roads If the idea of everyone having their own individual car is to stay, implementing smart roads is an initiative that must take place. These avenues are computerized. Based on a reading of the number of tires hitting the ground, these roads can understand traffic patterns and inform drivers of them. The idea is that drivers will receive this information and base their routes on it. This makes traffic jams less likely. It will certainly be an uphill battle to implementing these roads, as it is very expensive to do so. Still, perhaps in about ten years construction on some of the first ones will begin. Read more at The Wall Street Journal.

Bonus:

6. Driverless Cars A large and complex camera is mounted to the roof of driverless cars. The vehicles use this device to navigate the road with the help of no human. These cars are safer, if the technology is right, to ride in as a precisely calibrated robot is at the wheel. The automobiles also allow people to work or relax during a trip, as they eliminate the need to focus on the road. A downside to these cars is that with them the possibility for traffic jams to occur, though in a smaller chance, is still present. Also, they are bad for the environment. Nevertheless, these cars are in use in some places already and will gain an even bigger presence in the near future. Read more at BBC.

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

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Are modern societies trying too hard to be clean, at the detriment to public health? Scientists discovered that a microorganism living in dirt can actually be good for us, potentially helping the body to fight off stress. Harnessing its powers can lead to a "stress vaccine".

Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder found that the fatty 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid from the soil-residing bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae aids immune cells in blocking pathways that increase inflammation and the ability to combat stress.

The study's senior author and Integrative Physiology Professor Christopher Lowry described this fat as "one of the main ingredients" in the "special sauce" that causes the beneficial effects of the bacterium.

The finding goes hand in hand with the "hygiene hypothesis," initially proposed in 1989 by the British scientist David Strachan. He maintained that our generally sterile modern world prevents children from being exposed to certain microorganisms, resulting in compromised immune systems and greater incidences of asthma and allergies.

Contemporary research fine-tuned the hypothesis, finding that not interacting with so-called "old friends" or helpful microbes in the soil and the environment, rather than the ones that cause illnesses, is what's detrimental. In particular, our mental health could be at stake.

"The idea is that as humans have moved away from farms and an agricultural or hunter-gatherer existence into cities, we have lost contact with organisms that served to regulate our immune system and suppress inappropriate inflammation," explained Lowry. "That has put us at higher risk for inflammatory disease and stress-related psychiatric disorders."

University of Colorado Boulder

Christopher Lowry

This is not the first study on the subject from Lowry, who published previous work showing the connection between being exposed to healthy bacteria and mental health. He found that being raised with animals and dust in a rural environment helps children develop more stress-proof immune systems. Such kids were also likely to be less at risk for mental illnesses than people living in the city without pets.

Lowry's other work also pointed out that the soil-based bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae acts like an antidepressant when injected into rodents. It alters their behavior and has lasting anti-inflammatory effects on the brain, according to the press release from the University of Colorado Boulder. Prolonged inflammation can lead to such stress-related disorders as PTSD.

The new study from Lowry and his team identified why that worked by pinpointing the specific fatty acid responsible. They showed that when the 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid gets into cells, it works like a lock, attaching itself to the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR). This allows it to block a number of key pathways responsible for inflammation. Pre-treating the cells with the acid (or lipid) made them withstand inflammation better.

Lowry thinks this understanding can lead to creating a "stress vaccine" that can be given to people in high-stress jobs, like first responders or soldiers. The vaccine can prevent the psychological effects of stress.

What's more, this friendly bacterium is not the only potentially helpful organism we can find in soil.

"This is just one strain of one species of one type of bacterium that is found in the soil but there are millions of other strains in soils," said Lowry. "We are just beginning to see the tip of the iceberg in terms of identifying the mechanisms through which they have evolved to keep us healthy. It should inspire awe in all of us."

Check out the study published in the journal Psychopharmacology.