Technology

Checking on Millenium Predictions

By Martha J HeilApr 1, 2000 12:00 AM

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In 1988, Discover asked a group of experts what technology might look like at the end of the millennium.

PREDICTION: More stringent requirements for fire-resistant upholstery on airplanes should be in effect by 2001, according to Federal Aviation Administration officials. Fire-resistant fuel might also be in widespread use by the end of the century.

REALITY: By 1989, the FAA mandated that airplane seats on all commercial passenger planes be able to withstand a foot-long, six-inch-wide oil flame for two minutes and stop burning when the flame is removed. Seats are now made of urethane foam covered with a flame-resistant fabric, such as Kevlar. For appearance, the Kevlar is covered with a wool-nylon or polyester-blend fabric. Effective fire-resistant fuels used by the military have proven too costly for commercial use.

What's Going Up

April 13: Space Shuttle Atlantis, carrying components for the International Space Station, from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

April 21: U.S. Air Force Navstar 2R-4 satellite, part of the Global Positioning System, on a Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

April 28: CHAMP satellite, to study Earth's magnetic and gravity fields, on a Cosmos 3M rocket from the Svobodny Cosmodrome in Plesetsk, Russia.

What's Going Down

April 1-31: Marine archaeologists, sponsored by North Caribbean Research, survey 16thÐ to 18th-century shipwrecks off the Dominican Republic.

April 1-31: Ocean Drilling Program scientists collect sediment samples near Antarctica.

April 8-14: Marine biologists from the Undersea Explorer program dive near Australia's Osprey Reef to study sharks.

Science Myths

MYTH: Rain has a "teardrop" shape.

FACT: Small drops are roughly spherical because they are held together by surface tension. Larger drops--about one tenth of an inch wide--flatten out into a hamburger form; the largest are blown into little parachutes and are broken up by air pressure as they fall.

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