3D printing is a mainstream consumer product
Until recently, this technology was extremely expensive – upwards of $15,000 per machine – and limited to use in industrial prototyping, product design, medical modeling and architectural models.* However, plummeting costs are now making it affordable to consumers.**
Rather than using ink on paper, these machines can actually “print” 3D objects. This is achieved by melting nylon powder and then shaping it based on computer instructions.
Countless different items can be produced – from jewellery and decorative gift-ware, to children’s toys, kitchenware, replacement plugs, hooks, pipes, fittings, flooring and other household essentials.
Users can download new items and configurations from the Web.* Artists and hobbyists can even create their own, using these printers in combination with 3D scanners and modeling software.
In addition to falling costs, another reason that home 3D printing has taken off rapidly is that there is very little manufacturing being done in America and various other countries anymore. As a result, there is little or no pressure by manufacturing special interests against it.
In the decades ahead, this technology will evolve into nano fabricators, capable of reproducing items with atomic precision within minutes. It will ultimately lead to matter replicators with near-instantaneous production of almost any object.
Queen Elizabeth II is the longest reigning monarch in British history
On 10th September 2015, Elizabeth II becomes the longest reigning monarch in British history – surpassing the record held by Victoria, her great-great grandmother. Having ascended to the throne on 6th February 1952, Elizabeth II has now reigned for 63 years and 217 days.
The six decades of her reign have witnessed enormous changes on the world stage – including the dismantling of the British Empire, the civil rights movement, the growing empowerment of women in society, the development of the Space Age, accelerating globalization, the fall of communism in Europe, the end of the Cold War, the dawn of the information age, and the rise of China, to name but a few.
Now aged 89, she is becoming noticeably frailer and has begun to scale back her official duties. The next milestone (assuming she lives that long) will be in 2022 – her Platinum Jubilee. Her eldest son Charles will succeed her, becoming King Charles III.
DDR4 memory reaches the home PC market
DDR4 is the fourth generation of double data rate, synchronous dynamic random-access memory (SDRAM) after DDR (2002), DDR2 (2004) and DDR3 (2007).* It features greater speed, memory density and energy efficiency, with devices using 20 nanometer (nm) process technology allowing consumer-grade modules of up to 32 GB.* Though Samsung and others introduced DDR4 memory boards in 2013, processor boards like Intel’s Broadwell did not yet support this standard. High-end servers in data centers were able to take advantage of DDR4 in 2014. However, the home PC market would have to wait until 2015.*
DDR DDR2 DDR3 DDR4
Year of release 2002 2004 2007 2013
Speed 266 Mhz 400 Mhz 1066 MHz 2133 MHz
Maximum size 1 GB 2 GB 16 GB 32 GB
Energy required 2.5 volts 1.8 volts 1.5 volts 1.2 vol
New Horizons arrives at Pluto
This NASA probe was launched in 2006 and has traveLled more than 4 billion kilometers through space. In July 2015, it returns the first close range, high resolution pictures of the icy world – along with its five moons – before passing through the Kuiper Belt.
China builds the longest undersea tunnel in the world
China’s latest megaproject is a 76 mile (122 km) undersea tunnel running from Dalian to Yantai. It surpasses the combined length of the world’s two longest undersea tunnels – Japan’s Seikan Tunnel and the Channel Tunnel between Britain and France. With previous journeys cut by 800 miles, it forms a vital high-speed rail link between the north and south of the country, boosting economic growth significantly.
This $36 billion project is constructed in less than five years.* It is actually three parallel tunnels – one for cars, one for trains and one for maintenance, placed 100 ft below the sea bed. Vertical shafts are located on island stepping stones to provide ventilation. However, there is much controversy surrounding the route, which passes over two major earthquake fault lines.
India’s first manned space flight
India becomes only the fourth nation – after Russia, the US and China – to independently launch humans into space. The rocket used is a variant of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark 2, operated by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). This carries a largely autonomous 3-ton capsule, with a two-person crew on board. They remain in orbit around the Earth at 248 miles (400 km) altitude for seven days, before splashing down in the Bay of Bengal. The total cost of the project is about 124 billion rupees ($2.67 billion USD)
The first hotel in space
This year sees Russian space group, Energiya, launching the world’s first space hotel in partnership with US firm Orbital Technologies.** Capable of housing up to seven people, it offers spectacular views of the Earth and includes a menu crafted by celebrity chefs. It also functions as a possible emergency refuge for astronauts from the International Space Station
Insight touches down on Mars
Insight is a probe launched by NASA to Mars, arriving in September 2016. The name stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport. A stationary lander is placed on the surface of Mars, equipped with a seismometer and heat flow probe that drills 5 meters (16 ft) below ground – deeper than all previous arms, scoops, drills and probes. Insight’s primary objective is to conduct an advanced study into the early geological processes that shaped Mars. The rocky inner planets share a common ancestry that began with a process called accretion. As each body increased in size, its interior heated up and evolved to become a terrestrial planet with a core, mantle and crust. Despite this common ancestry, each of the terrestrial planets was later shaped and molded through a poorly understood process called differentiation. Insight’s goal is to improve understanding of this process. It will confirm whether Mars’ core is solid or liquid, and determine why the crust is not divided into tectonic plates that drift like Earth’s
Launch of the Titanic II
More than 100 years after the ill-fated voyage of RMS Titanic, an exact replica is built and launched by the Australian billionaire Clive Palmer. The boat sails from China – where it is constructed – to Southampton in England ahead of her maiden passenger journey to New York. Guests include leading U.S. business figures, who are treated to a dinner from the same menu as Titanic passengers on the day it sank.
The first private supersonic jet
While commercial airliners typically cruise at Mach 0.85 (567 mph), the Spike S-512 uses advanced engine and airframe technology to reach speeds of Mach 1.8 (1200 mph). Holding up to 18 passengers, it can fly from NYC to London in 3.5 hours instead of 7 hours; or from LA to Tokyo in 8 hours instead of 16 hours.* This private jet, costing $80 million, is aimed at the richest business executives and celebrities, but supersonic and even hypersonic travel will become more affordable in future decades. A competitor, Aerion, delivers their own supersonic jet in 2021. This is followed by hypersonic commercial airliners in the 2030s.
Consumer devices with 100 Gbit/s transfer speeds
A new form of data transfer is now available for the consumer market. This is known as “Thunderbolt” and is replacing the Universal Serial Bus (USB) leads which have been the standard for many years. The USB 3.0 specification allowed transfer speeds of 4.8 Gbit/s. An early version of Thunderbolt (codenamed “Light Peak”) achieved 10 Gbit/s. This latest version, however, can achieve 100 Gbit/s – enough to transfer an entire Blu-ray movie in just three seconds.*
The optical technology of Thunderbolt also allows smaller connectors with longer, thinner and more flexible cables. Additionally, it can run multiple protocols simultaneously over a single cable, enabling the technology to connect devices such as peripherals, workstations, displays, disk drives, docking stations and more.
The last of Nigeria’s rainforests have been felled
Nigeria was once among the Earth’s most ecologically vibrant places – home to 4,700 plant types and 550 species of breeding birds and mammals. These included the forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) and rare primates such as the drill monkey (Mandrillus leucophaeus), Sclater’s guenon (Cercopithecus sclateri), the red-eared guenon (Cercopithecus erythrotis) and the red-capped mangabey (Cercocebus torquatus).
During the late 20th century, however, rampant deforestation took hold, with tree loss reaching nearly 4% per year. Between 1990 and 2005, the country lost over 4 million hectares of tree cover.* The most biodiverse ecosystems – the so-called “old growth” areas – were disappearing at an even faster rate, with an average of 11% being lost every year from 2000 onwards.
Logging, subsistence farming, road building (often sponsored by oil companies), mining and dam construction all contributed to the damage. The carbon lost from the destruction of these rainforests was exacerbated by the amount released from gas flaring – Nigeria flared more gas than any other country.
Despite some attempts at preservation, a resource-hungry population and its growing economy were unable to halt the tide of destruction. The bulk of Nigeria’s rainforests eventually disappeared, the last few pockets shrinking into insignificance by the late 2010