Friday 20 September 2019

Sinead Ryan: 'Hype on tech still can't stop cows belching'


Stock Image: PA
Stock Image: PA
Sinead Ryan

Sinead Ryan

I do wish the pace of technology would slow down. I'm all for things that make life more convenient, but am I the only one whose head spins when all the latest gadgets seem to be replacing old ones before I've got my brain around what the first lot do? This is science week, so I'm trying to be positive about things I really don't understand but have to trust are good for me.

Much of it gets hyped in the name of bettering the planet, but I'm not convinced.

A couple of scientists at MIT, for instance, are now testing a prototype battery which could generate power for an electric plane.

I know. I wouldn't either.

Apparently, they're attempting to "apply magnetic force to navigate lithium ions through electrodes to boost electrical discharges". Impressed?

They claim an e-plane could become a short-haul air taxi service, using no fossil fuels, by 2022.

If it's successful the battery might prove the secret weapon that allows aeroplanes the intense power surge they need to take off.

Since I'm not altogether sure how they manage this currently, I'll leave it to the boffins to concentrate on, but the selling point is that they say it will eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from air travel, which account for 2pc of global carbon dioxide levels.

Still, all the brains in the world can't seem to stop cows belching, which creates a lot more.

And if they're so clever, why can't they make a battery for an iPhone that doesn't run out by lunchtime?

The shocking stats around commercial 'lady pilots'

One secret advantage the airline industry seems slow to pick up on, and which requires no technology at all, is female pilots. A recent study of the airline industry found there are just 7,409 female commercial pilots in the whole world, representing just 5.18pc of the industry. It's shocking.

United Airlines, Lufthansa and British Airways came out top, but of a very constricted pile.

Aer Lingus was the first enlightened European airline with a 'lady pilot', Gráinne Cronin in 1978. Today, around 10pc of the fleet has women at the helm.

Ryanair was called out earlier this year after it was revealed just eight out of its 554 UK pilots are women, leading to an internal gender pay gap of 67pc.

What are they afraid of? An airline that boasts it gets you there quicker and better than anyone else should be delighted to have someone in charge who's not afraid to ask for directions.

Driverless 'milk floats' the future - if you dare

Now, I didn't mention this at the time in case some of ye lost the run of yourselves and turned up, but I'm relieved to report that the debut of the first driverless shuttle in Dublin is over. Nobody died, I'm told.

In September, Dublin City Council organised the event which saw the 'Easymile' vehicle, which can carry 15 brave souls and has a top speed of 24kmh, take to the streets. It's a fairly ugly looking thing, resembling the milk float from 'Father Ted' rather than futuristic e-transport, but that didn't put off a spirited few hipsters.

A hundred Easymiles already operate in several countries and I'm sure, per the blurb, it's the future. But just not yet, please. On this occasion, it took a fairly safe route from the Convention Centre to the 3Arena.

City chief Owen Keegan announced his confidence in it, despite "technical issues" which would need to be sorted before we see it ambling all by itself down the quays.

Will they include advice to switch it off and on again if it grinds to a halt?

Irish Independent

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