7 Things You Need to Know Now

12/22/2015 12:06
by Stephen Petranek

1. Great Meal, but I Feel Kind of Funny

If you've evolved enough to realize that most things in the supermarket that come in a box are bad for you, then you immediately head for the fresh foods section. But there's danger lurking there too. The United States has a problem with food poisoning that is getting so bad that one in six people will tangle with it this year.
 

The ever-present recalls for prepackaged hamburger (E. coli is usually the culprit there), pork and chicken are so common now that most people seem to just glaze over at the recalls, even though millions of pounds of the stuff have been recalled in the last 30 days.

Meanwhile, most of us are getting sick from supposedly healthy foods. Here are some of the foods that may surprise you as having been recalled in the last 30 days, as well as the bacteria involved:

  • cottage cheese (not properly refrigerated)
  • yogurt (coliform)
  • crushed chili powder (salmonella)
  • organic mangoes (listeria)
  • eggs (salmonella)
  • walnuts (listeria)
  • crabmeat (listeria)
  • hummus (listeria).

Yes, most of them were from name brands like Kraft and Stonyfield.

 

The Centers for Disease Control recently looked at a decade of statistics on what causes most people to get food poisoning, and the results are unnerving: Leading the pack at 22% of all food poisoning is — surprise — leafy green vegetables. It turns out they're covered with noroviruses, for which antibiotics are useless, and E. coli, which mostly comes from fecal contamination.

Dairy products are the second leading cause of intestinal bouts, comprising 14% of incidents and 10% of deaths. And although meats are not the most common causes of food poisoning, they are responsible for more food poisoning deaths. Poultry leads the way, at 19% of all deaths from bad food, due mostly to listeria and salmonella bacteria.

So what can a hungry person do? Stop eating meats, for sure, and wash, wash, wash those veggies (even if the label says "triple-washed, ready to eat." Oh, and wash your hands too — often.

2. Hill? You Call That a Hill?

OK, let's be real: The only significant problem with forgoing your car and being ecologically cool by riding a bike on your errands is that you don't live in Holland. It's the upgrades, the steep roads and the need for a granny gear that keeps most bikes in the garage. But all this is changing. In fact, there may be no other part of the tech world where innovation and creativity are more prominent than bicycles. Yup, bicycles. That's why last year's model on the showroom floor is marked down 40% — it's already obsolete.

The best part of the stream of bike innovation is that engineering geeks are thinking beyond fun and exercise to usability. Thus, clustered together near the front of most bicycle shops these days are heavier-looking rides with a bulge in the center — so-called e-bikes. The "e" is for electric. And the combination of brilliant new electric motors from companies like Bosch connected to the latest in lithium cell battery technology means you can ride a typical e-bike these days at speeds approaching at least 20 mph and go pretty effortlessly for 30–50 miles. You can, for instance, pedal in flat areas and twist the throttle on the hills, or you can engage a smart switch that gives a boost automatically from the motor (usually in the back hub) when it senses a hill.

One of my favorites of the new e-bikes is the E3 Zuma from Currie Technologies in Simi Valley, Calif. A monster battery is hidden in the seat tube, so you hardly notice it's an e-bike. Cruise for up to 35 miles with ease, thanks to a 500-watt motor in the rear hub powered by a 36-volt lithium-ion battery packing 10.4 amp-hours. When you pedal, you'll engage a Shimano Acera 7 speed setup with a 44-tooth crankset and an 11–32-tooth cassette in the rear wheel. The tires are a mountain bike-like 26 by 2.3 inches.

And if you just can't give up your present bike but really wish it could be electrified, Currie has just the thing for you. It's called the Electron Wheel, and it's a quick change-out for the front wheel. The black disc not only looks cool and different, but it contains everything you need, including motor, controls and battery. Just slip your old wheel out, slip the Electron in and go. There are no tools or wiring or conversions necessary.

The Electron Wheel has a built-in 250-watt motor powered by a 24-volt, 10-amp lithium-ion battery.

The black disc senses grades and automatically applies appropriate force. A wireless sensor attached to your crankset tells the wheel to add power only when you are pedaling, so there's no runaway effect. When you're done, roll the wheel inside, plug it in and charge it up. The only thing left to think about is how to hack the Currie system to accept a solar boost from cells glued onto your helmet.

 

3. Time to Book Your Trip Into Space

Virgin Galactic, which has built an air-launched rocket system in partnership with aircraft designer Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites, is actually on schedule to begin taking ordinary people for a ride into space by year-end. The company's SpaceShipTwo carries six passengers and guarantees to get them 80 kilometers above Earth's surface, but intends that each flight will reach 100 kilometers (62 miles), the so-called Kármán line that marks the edge of space, according to the International Aeronautical Federation. It certainly isn't deep space, but there's so little atmosphere at that level that the sky is black and wings are useless.

SpaceShipTwo recently completed its third test flight successfully, and in late May, the FAA approved a system whereby launches from the Spaceport America in Las Cruces, N.M., will be coordinated with the Albuquerque Air Route Traffic Control Center.

Virgin Galactic was born from Burt Rutan's successful attempt in 2004 to win the Ansari X Prize for building the first private rocket into space that reached the Kármán line.

Virgin Galactic is a privately owned company. The two principals are Sir Richard Branson and Abu Dhabi's Aabar Investments PJS. Although no one really knows what development of SpaceShipTwo has actually cost, the potential for recovery, if not profit, is certainly there. About 700 people have put down a deposit on a ticket to ride, a ticket that now costs $250,000, up from $200,000 a couple of years ago (lesson: Always be an early adopter). The math works out to more than $150 million in ticket sales. Galactic is calling ticket holders "astronauts," and each will undergo training before the flight, including being stressed in one of those G-force rides that mimic a bad night on the Tilt-A-Whirl. Astronauts also get invited to events surrounding the mystique and glamour of Virgin Galactic's enterprise.

There's a long line ahead of you, but if getting into space is your dream, you can sign up here: http://www.virgingalactic.com/booking/

More to come…


 


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